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These three rivers are now legally considered human beings

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UPDATE March 22, 9:31 a.m.:

Two more rivers have been granted the legal rights of human beings.

The Yamuna and Ganges rivers were named "living entities" by a court in Uttarakhand, India, CNN reports.

The court said the rivers were on the verge of "losing their very existence" and needed drastic legal measures to be preserved. Both are considered sacred to Hindus and are personified as goddesses, as well as being essential water sources.

ORIGINAL STORY:  What does it mean to be human? 

It's a deep, philosophical question. But according to a New Zealand tribe, whatever the answer, rivers are eligible. 

The Whanganui river was granted legal rights as a human being. The Maori tribe had fought for legal recognition of the river for more than a century. On Wednesday, they won, The Guardian reports

We consider the river an ancestor and always have.
Gerrard Albert, Whanganui tribe negotiator

Gerrard Albert, lead negotiator for the Whanganui tribe, said the goal was to view the river as a "living entity" rather than property.

Now, harming the river can carry the same legal penalties as harming a person. 

Two guardians will be appointed to act on behalf of the river. 

whanganui river 2.jpg

The law reflects the Maori worldview, which considers humans as part of the universe and equal with geographic features. It also included an $80 million seettlement. 

Whanganui Journey, New Zealand (Great Walks Episode 3 of 9)

WATCH | Here's a look at the New Zealand Department of Conservation's tourist guide to the river.

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