Kerala High Court approached for conservation of Bharathapuzha

Friends of Bharathapuzha headed by E. Sreedharan seeks legal entity status for river

Updated - May 21, 2022 07:49 am IST

Published - May 20, 2022 08:50 pm IST - PALAKKAD

Technocrat E. Sreedharan examining a damaged construction by the Bharathapuzha at Koottakkadavu in the wake of the floods in 2019.

Technocrat E. Sreedharan examining a damaged construction by the Bharathapuzha at Koottakkadavu in the wake of the floods in 2019. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The Friends of Bharatapuzha (FoB), an organisation working towards the conservation of the Bharathapuzha river, has approached the Kerala High Court seeking its intervention for the protection of the river. Several personalities, including technocrat E. Sreedharan, have been involved in the conservation of the river.

Headed by Mr. Sreedharan, the FoB has sought an environmental impact study on the basis of the unscientific constructions in the Bharathapuzha. It has also sought a ‘legal entity’ status for the river considering the similar status accorded to some waterbodies across the globe.

Admitting the case, Justice V.G. Arun quoted a few lines of Edassery’s famous poem on the Bharathapuzha and said that conservation of the river was of utmost significance.

Rema Smrithi V.K., representing the FoB, pointed out that no action had been taken on the Mullakkara Ratnakaran Environment Committee report presented in the Assembly on August 23, 2017. The committee had found that unscientific constructions in the river were considerably hampering its smooth flow. She said further constructions were being made instead.

The unscientific nature of the construction at Koottakkadavu, near Thrithala, was highlighted in a report presented to the High Court.

Vinod Nambiar, secretary of the FoB, said that several government agencies were considered as the owner of the river, but none was seen coming forward to conserve it. He said the FoB was forced to seek the help of the judiciary after it unsuccessfully approached different government departments.

“In our writ, we have raised the contention that the Bharathapuzha has every right to exist and be protected as any other living being,” said Ms. Smrithi.

She said the State was duty-bound to protect the river when others are causing harm to it. “The river has to be maintained in a way so that no harm is bestowed on it by any other person or entity,” she said, quoting several instances of judgments and laws.

The Uttarakhand High Court had in 2017 ruled that the rivers Ganga and Yamuna, the Gangothri and the Yamunothri glaciers and related natural elements were ‘legal persons’ and had all the corresponding rights and duties and liabilities of a living person. Similarly, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has ruled nature as a legal entity, when Punjab and Haryana High Court in 2020 declared the Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh as a living entity.

“New Zealand Parliament has given legal status to their rivers and national parks on the principle that nature has a right to exist,” said Mr. Nambiar, demanding that similar legislation should be made in Kerala as well for the conservation of its water bodies.

The Bharathapuzha conservation drive has been on for about three decades since it was launched in 1992 under the leadership of the late poet-environmentalist Sugathakumari. “Several organisations have been persistently demanding for the setting up of a Bharathapuzha River Basin Authority, but nothing has materialised,” said Mr. Nambiar.

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