International Team Leads Campaign to Clean up the Ganges

Ganges River pic

Ganges River
Image: telegraph.co.uk

A former juvenile court judge who worked on international juvenile law issues, Paul Seeman chaired the International Committee of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, and traveled to a number of different countries including France, the Netherlands, and Ireland as a member of the International Association of Youth and Family Court Magistrates to participate in conferences such as the 17th International Congress in Belfast in 2006.

Founded and registered in Brussels (Belgium) in 1928 and in 1963, the International Association of Youth and Family Judges and Magistrates (IAYFJM) is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation) with consultative status at the Council of Europe. It represents worldwide efforts to establish links between judges from different countries but also with other international associations working in the sector of the protection of youth and family. It promotes research on international problems facing the operation of the courts and various laws relating to youth and family.
Membership of the IAYFJM is comprised of national associations and committed individuals from all parts of the globe, who exercise functions as youth and family court judges or functions within professional services directly linked to youth and family justice or welfare. The international congresses of the IAYFJM take place every four years and are an opportunity for exchanges between people from all over the world who are engaged in child or family protection to discuss matters falling within the jurisdiction of the Family Courts or Youth Courts.

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Ganges River Cleanup Creates Compromise With Cultural Practices

Ganges River pic

Ganges River
Image: telegraph.co.uk

Former Judge Paul Seeman has worked for many years in juvenile law in Alameda County, California. With a focus on mental health issues, Paul Seeman has been nominated for and received a number of awards. Outside of his interests in his work, he also maintains an interest in environmental law and was involved in an international effort to clean up the Ganges River in India.

India is primarily a Hindu country, and the Ganges River in northern India is the most sacred river in the Hindu tradition. In Hindu society, many visit the river to bathe in it due to the importance of cleanliness in their practices. Another ancient practice is to burn deceased bodies on funeral pyres on the river, after which the ashes are spread across the river.

However, a major problem faces the river and its visitors: although it is used by nearly a half billion people, it is highly polluted because cities dump raw sewage directly into the river system. It is also affected by industrial run-off and unsound sanitation practices. This pollution is a major cause of bacterial and water-borne diseases that affect a staggering number people every year, especially infants and children.

An international group of environmental lawyers and financial institutions have gathered since the 1980s to push efforts to clean up the Ganges River. Various methods of cleanup have been proposed, but without scientific understanding and governmental regulations, the efforts are difficult to achieve. The matter is complicated by the need not only clean up the river but to also persuade Hindu people of the need for a compromise between ancient cultural practices and environmental and health issues.

Ganges River Has Extremely High Pollution Levels

Ganges River pic

Ganges River
Image: telegraph.co.uk

Former California judge Paul Seeman earned his law degree from Boalt Hall at the University of California, Berkeley. Possessing a strong professional interest in international environmental law, Paul Seeman participated in efforts to clean the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. Revered by Hindus as a sacred river, the Ganges has dangerously high levels of pollution, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

As the WHO notes, the levels of toxins, bacteria, and other pollutants in the Ganges are in places almost 3,000 times more than safe limits. Despite these risks, more than 420 million people rely on the Ganges for basic needs, such as bathing and agriculture. Experts suggest that rising population in India over the past two decades coupled with lenient industrial regulations have contributed to pollution in the Ganges.

In late 2014, the Indian Supreme Court mandated that the government develop a concrete, multistage plan to rejuvenate the river. Moreover, during his election campaign, the current Indian prime minister had made promises to achieve cleanup of the Ganges within three years after taking office.

MC Mehta Environmental Foundation

Paul Seeman has served as a judge of the Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland, California. Before becoming a judge, in his private law practice Paul Seeman participated in a number of international legal projects, including the effort to protect the Ganges River in India, in partnership with MC Mehta of the MC Mehta Environmental Foundation.

The MC Mehta Environmental Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization working for the protection of the environment, the rights of the people to clean and fresh water and air, the promotion of sustainable development, and the protection of the cultural heritage of India.

The Foundation has been actively involved in creating awareness among NGO’s, lawyers, scientists, government officials, academicians, students & youth through training and capacity building programmes, seminars, workshops, contests and other grass roots level activities.