That the rest of nature (like humans) has the intrinsic right to live, thrive and perform their ecological functions.
That humans are an intrinsic part of the larger web of life, and are interrelated and interconnected to other beings. Being primary drivers of change, humans have the responsibility to work towards harmonious relations between all inhabitants on earth as well as of future generations.
That there be equity and principles of justice amongst humans and their interactions with the “more-than-human world’. We focus on environmental and social justice issues of access and participation of vulnerable groups in decision making, community ownership, gender considerations and caste dynamics as we believe it informs environmental justice.
That indigenous and local subsistence based communities (both rural and urban) be recognized as primary custodians of their immediate natural ecosystems and have the right and freedom to manage their own lives which ensures the health and wellbeing of rivers.
That creating transboundary solidarities, new borderless bioregional configurations be based on ecological grounds that will lead to enduring peaceful relationships in the South Asian region.
That there is immense value and importance of democratic decision-making at the level closest to the natural ecosystems under consideration or that are being impacted.
As RORSA members we believe:
South Asia is home to millions of vulnerable people who are majorly dependent on nature for their basic needs. Extractive practices, the commodification of nature, large-scale encroachments, and ineffective governance mechanisms have devastated ecosystems, imperilled communities, and resulted in extensive loss of livelihoods and cultural heritage.
Climate change-induced impacts, including extreme rainfall, altered crop growth patterns, changes in biodiversity, increased incidence of diseases, sea-level rise, glacier melt, heat waves, droughts and floods, etc. pose significant new challenges.
Effective and enforceable law and policy paradigms that can address the planetary crisis and reimagine ways of peaceful co-existence amongst all living beings are urgently needed. Rights of rivers offer a compelling approach towards these complex, inter-related, and transboundary problems, both in South Asia and globally.
South Asia is amongst the global hotspots of the Rights of Nature movement.
While the diverse countries in the region have seen distinctive trajectories in the development of environmental law and policy, there have been promising developments in several countries towards recognizing the Rights of Nature. In Bangladesh, Bhutan, and India, the courts have recognized the Rights of Nature and other eco-centric legal principles. In other countries, such as Nepal and Pakistan, the movement is advancing through community and civil society-led initiatives that call upon the government to recognize the Rights of Nature. Legislative bodies have lagged behind the court in recognizing the Rights of Nature. While South Asian legislatures have passed a large body of rules and regulations safeguarding the environment, they have not yet defined the rights of the environment or rivers in specific.
LEGAL STATUS IN SOUTH ASIA
RIGHTS OF RIVERS
The Universal Declaration of Rights of Rivers declares that “ALL RIVERS ARE ENTITLED TO THE FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS set forth in this Declaration”. It further declares that “all rivers are LIVING ENTITIES that possess legal standing in a court of law”, and establishes that all rivers shall possess, at minimum, the following fundamental rights:
(1) The right to flow;
(2) The right to perform essential functions within its ecosystem;
(3) The right to be free from pollution;
(4) The right to feed and be fed by sustainable aquifers;
(5) The right to native biodiversity; and
(6) The right to regeneration and restoration.