Gita Parihar, Reviving India’s River Goddesses: Ecocide, the Right to Healthy Environment & Rights of Nature.
As an environmental lawyer, I am often asked whether the current legal framework is fit to address the scale and severity of the multiple planetary-scale crises we face. After years of bringing cases at the UK domestic level and advocacy at multilateral environmental negotiations, I can only reply that existing laws are often too weak and/or poorly enforced for the task. If the existing legal framework does not sufficiently value the well-being of humans, our fellow species and the planet, what needs to change? Three emerging legal doctrines: an international human right to a healthy environment; the international crime of Ecocide; and giving legal rights to nature, may be part of the answer. Between them, they could play a crucial role in orienting legal systems to truly address the monumental environmental and existential challenges of our time. After providing a brief introduction to each and discussing their interplay, I go on to examine their (actual and potential) application to the ongoing pollution of the Ganges and Yamuna rivers in India and consider what difference a crime of Ecocide might make to the position. This article is not intended as an exhaustive or definitive presentation of the matters discussed; the hope instead is to introduce avenues for further and future exploration.