This year, Bangladesh became the first country to grant all of its rivers the same legal status as humans.

From now on, its rivers will be treated as living entities in a court of law. The landmark ruling by the Bangladeshi Supreme Court is meant to protect the world’s largest delta from further degradation from pollution, illegal dredging, and human intrusion.

“In Bangladesh, the river is considered as our mother,” says Mohammad Abdul Matin, general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, a Dhaka-based environmental group. As Bangladesh sits where three major rivers converge and empty into the Bay of Bengal, nearly 100% of its land is delta land, he tells NPR.

Following the ruling, anyone accused of harming the rivers can be taken to court by the new, government-appointed National River Conservation Commission. They may be tried and delivered a verdict as if they had harmed their own mother, Matin says.

Read the full report from NPR.

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