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River Rights highlighted at IUCN World Conservation Congress

Published: 13th Sep, 2021

River Rights highlighted at IUCN World Conservation Congress


In the ongoing International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, in Marseille, France, the issue of ‘right of rivers’ was highlighted.

Universal Declaration of the Rights of Rivers

  • The press conference also marked approximately one year since the formal launch of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Rivers.
  • The declaration is a civil society initiative to define the basic rights to which all rivers are entitled, according to a note by non-profit, International Rivers.

Rights of rivers

  • The rights of rivers mean that the ecological causes and conditions making up the natural habitat are to be protected to maintain a river’s identity and integrity.
  • The concept pushes for a healthy relationship respecting the river as an ecosystem.

Recognition of rights

  • In the one year since the declaration, rights have been recognised or declared for the
    • Boulder Creek watershed in the United States
    • the Magpie river in Canada
    • waterways in Orange County in the US
    • the Alpayacu river in Ecuador
    • the Paraná river and its wetlands in Argentina
  • Some 1,700 individuals and 211 organisations from over 40 countries have pledged support to the declaration.

Recognized rivers

  • The rights to recognise river as living entities rather than mere human property started in 2008. That year, Ecuador became the first country to constitutionally recognize the Rights of Nature.
  • In 2017, a treaty agreement between the Whanganui Iwi (a M?ori tribe) and the New Zealand government recognised the Whanganuiriver as a legal person
  • Also in 2017, a Constitutional Court decision in Colombia recognised the rights of the Atrato river.
  • A court in Uttarakhand recognised the Ganga and Yamuna rivers as legal personswith rights. This was later stayed.

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