“Inspired by indigenous views of nature, a movement to grant a form of legal “personhood” to rivers is gaining some ground — a key step, advocates say, in reversing centuries of damage inflicted upon the world’s waterways.
“Despite the promise held by establishing legal rights for rivers, difficult questions remain. What does it mean for a river to have the rights of a person? Does a river have the right to flow freely, and does this mean its waters can’t be dammed or diverted? Is compensation to affected communities permissible in lieu of court orders requiring removal of large obstructions like dams? What can we do to move beyond merely acknowledging humanity’s connection to rivers to actually saving them? And, finally, and perhaps most important, how should a legal regime determine who will advocate on behalf of a river, which lacks a voice of its own? In the future, these are questions policymakers will have to address.
“Camila Badilla, coordinator of the Chilean Free-Flowing Rivers Network, says that granting legal rights to rivers is just one step in an ongoing transformation in how humans view their place in the natural world. “Perhaps in the future we will stop feeling like the center of nature,” she says. “Granting a right to a river is the first big step to opening ourselves up to seeing and understanding other living beings.””
Read the full story by Jens Benöhr and Patrick J. Lynch….
Photo: The free-flowing Baker River in Chile’s Patagonia region. Permits for a major hydroelectric project on the waterway were revoked in 2014 amid protests. LOUIS VEST/FLICKR