The high court of Bombay at Goa issued a notice to the state government and others in connection with a public interest litigation (PIL) praying that Mhadei/Mandovi and Zuari rivers be declared as ‘living persons’.
The PIL was filed by social activist Kashinath Shetye and others in March 2017, which stated that unanticipated developments and crises facing the rivers required extraordinary steps to counter it.
River Mhadei, which fulfils drinking water needs and other essentials for talukas in north Goa, is facing a threat from the proposed diversion of Kalsa nullah near the state’s north-eastern border.
“The unexpected situation has arisen since Mhadei/Mandovi and Zuari rivers are losing their very existence. This requires extraordinary measures to preserve and conserve Rivers Mandovi and Zuari,” states the petition.
The petitioners, Shetye, Naresh Chodankar, Haresh Harmalkar and Desmond Alvares also urged the court to direct the state to issue orders to advocate general and additional solicitor general representing Goa, to also represent the rivers at all legal proceedings.
Karnataka has invested crores of rupees to build a canal with elaborate underground diversion system to reroute Kalsa water into Malaprabha basin. It also has other proposals that would to divert other tributaries of Mhadei.
Maharashtra had started works to build Virdi dam on a tributary of Mhadei river and Sasoli anicut to divert the water from Chapora river. These activities had raised alarms about the disastrous consequences to the rivers in the state.
In a first for the country, the Uttarakhand High Court had accorded recognition to River Ganga and River Yamuna as the ‘living persons of India’ in an order on March 20, 2017. As both rivers would enjoy status of living persons, both rivers would also be identically entitled to rights like humans. On March 15, New Zealand river Whanganui became the first in the world to be granted a legal human status.