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[News Clipping] Landmark Peruvian Court Ruling Says the Maranon River Has Legal Rights To Exist, Flow and Be Free From Pollution (Inside Climate News, March 18, 2024)
  • 2024-03-30
  • 103


The ruling is the first time Peru has recognized that ecosystems possess legal rights and is based on a constellation of legal precedents in international and Peruvian law.

The Nauta provincial court, located in Peru’s Loreto region, also ruled that Indigenous organizations and various government agencies are “guardians, defenders and representatives of the Marañón River and its tributaries”.

The Nauta court’s recognition of the Marañón River’s rights does not immediately affect oil production or other potentially nature-harming activities, but could set the stage for future litigation. As its guardians, Indigenous organizations can now go to court on behalf of the Marañón River to block permitting for activities like mining or drilling that could infringe on the river’s rights. Those groups could also ask courts to order polluters to carry out restoration and clean up of the waterways.

But that’s only if the ruling withstands an expected appeal of the order by defendants in the case, who include representatives of various governmental agencies and the state oil company Petroperú. 



While the Nauta court acknowledged that neither Peru’s constitution nor its existing laws recognized that nature has rights, the opinion went on to emphasize that legal precedent in international law and adopted by Peru, as well as rulings from the country’s own constitutional court, provided a basis for judicial recognition of the Marañón River ecosystem’s rights. 
Those precedents from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the International Labor Organization, among others, have established that there is an “undeniable relationship” between human rights and environmental degradation, the court said.

In particular, the Nauta court focused on the human right to a healthy environment, recognized by Peru and over 150 other countries, writing that the right safeguards elements of the natural world like forests, rivers and oceans.

“It is about protecting nature and the environment not only because of its connection with a utility for human beings or because of the effects that its degradation could cause on other people’s rights, such as health, life or personal integrity,” the court wrote. “But due to its importance for the other living organisms with which the planet is shared, also deserving of protection in themselves.” 

The opinion also concentrated on the precautionary principle, a long recognized but often overlooked legal doctrine requiring that in the absence of adequate scientific evidence, it is better to avoid certain risks that could lead to irreversible damage of ecosystems.



The Marañón River and tributaries full list of rights, as set forth in the court’s order includes:


The right to flow;
The right to exist in and support a healthy ecosystem;
The right to flow free from all contamination;
The right to feed and be fed by its tributaries;
The right to biodiversity;
The right to be restored;
The right to the regeneration of its natural cycles;
The right to the conservation of its ecological structure and functions; and
The right to protection, preservation, and recovery.



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