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How rivers are legal, living persons with rights discussed at MoFA webinar

Published : 13 Jan 2023 11:27 PM | Updated : 14 Jan 2023 04:12 PM

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) arranged a webinar on how rivers are legal, living persons with rights.

Justice Md Ashraful Kamal, who delivered the judgment on the River Turag in 2019, presented the keynote at the "Legal Personhood of River."

He highlighted the importance of the landmark ruling by the High Court Division that granted "legal personhood" to all rivers, declaring that all rivers in Bangladesh are entitled to legal protection under the Public Trust Doctrine (PTD).

The judgment also included 17 key directives to the executive for dealing with river pollution and encroachment issues and for the survival of rivers as continuing ecosystem elements.

"Because of these directives, river polluters have been banned from participating in the elections, the National River Conservation Commission as the 'guardian' of all rivers has been established, and polluters have been barred from receiving bank loans among other measures," Ashraful said.

The concept of the legal personhood of the river is based on the legal recognition of the planetary ecosystems and other non-human entities as legal persons who have legal rights to protect the environment.

Proponents of the concept say that legal systems should recognise the inherent value of the environment, including its survival as well as its enrichment. This means that certain entities cannot be harmed, corrupted or degraded without their consent.

For example, granting personhood status to ecosystems and animals can lead to greater protection from environmental degradation as well as a stronger voice in environmental decision-making.

Against this backdrop, diplomats, scholars and activists are pushing to give nature legal personhood, with some countries such as Ecuador and Bolivia recently passing laws recognising the rights of nature.

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said with the remarkable verdict Bangladesh had joined a growing number of communities, tribal nations, and countries, in securing a new form of legal protection for nature which recognises that nature is a living entity with legal rights.

Syed Muntasir Mamun, director general of International Trade, Investment and Technology and ICT wings of MoFA, highlighted how the verdict is very much in line with Bangladesh's strong commitment to upholding the rights of all and maintaining the autonomy and agency of the human ecosystem under the guardianship of the public.

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