River as a Legal Person

Jerzy Bieluk


The concepts of recognizing elements of nature as having legal personality have been appearing for many years as proposals for a new approach to ecology. Recent years have brought specific solutions in this regard. Attempts to recognize rivers (but not only rivers) as separate legal entities can be found in various places around the world. This is not a common trend, only a few such cases can be identified in the applicable legislation. The article is devoted to the analysis of the best-known examples of this type of activity. In 2017, the legal system of New Zealand recognized the Whanganui River as a legal person. Talks are ongoing about further solutions of this kind. Apart from environmental protection reasons, the basic motives for this type of solution are cultural considerations – connected with Maori beliefs and values. In the legal systems of India and Colombia, the courts have attempted to recognize the rivers (Ganges and Yamuna in India, the Atrata River, and the entire Amazon ecosystem) as legal persons. The motives for this type of activity were primarily ecological – protecting priceless parts of nature from destruction.


environmental protection; legal personality; river as a legal person; ecology



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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/sil.2020.29.2.11-23
Data publikacji: 2020-06-21 16:40:20
Data złożenia artykułu: 2020-02-12 15:39:35


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