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Creating legal rights for rivers: lessons from Australia, New Zealand, and India

Erin L. O'Donnell, University of Melbourne
Julia Talbot-Jones, Australian National University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09854-230107

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Abstract

As pressures on water resources increase, the demand for innovative institutional arrangements, which address the overuse of water, and underprovision of ecosystem health, is rising. One new and emerging approach is the use of legal personality to protect water systems in law through the granting of legal rights to rivers. This constitutes a significant development in the fields of environmental law and water resources management, yet little analysis is available of how the approach has been used and applied. We critically examine the new legal rights for rivers using three case studies from Australia, New Zealand, and India. We analyze how legal rights have been created in each case, and the complexity of enforcing these legal rights to protect the rivers. We conclude that legal personality could be a useful alternative approach for river management, provided that the new legal rights are given sufficient force and effect.

Key words

Ganges; legal rights; river; Victorian Environmental Water Holder; Whanganui

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087