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Will the River Tavignanu be granted legal status?

The Tavignanu, a coastal river in Corsica 88 km long, flows eastwards from its source in Lake Ninu to Aléria. Despite its status of  Zone Natura 2000 to protect its fauna and flora, the lower valley of the Tavignanu could host a landfill site for domestic waste and asbestos in a meander of the river. This project, approved by the Council of State in July despite opposition, threatens the quality of drinking water and irrigation, in addition to representing a danger for biodiversity.

It is the reason why a coalition (Tavignanu Vivu, UMANI, Terres de Liens Corsica, Notre Affaire à Tous) launched a declaration of rights for the river Tavignanu on 29 July 2021. This declaration of rights has been conceived as

 “a response to the current legal framework that authorises the pollution of an ecosystem that is nonetheless essential for maintaining and ensuring life in the region”

according to Marine Yzquierdo, a lawyer and member of “Notre Affaire à Tous”. The declaration used the Universal Decelaration of the Rights of Rivers from the Earth Law Center.

 © Wikimedia Commons

The coalition aims to establish this declaration on the European scale, make European decision-makers aware, and hold a local referendum on the river’s status, as has been done already for Lake Erie in the United States, also threatened by pollutant industries. To launch this approach on the political level, the coalition has put a petition online, calling on people to support the declaration.


This declaration of rights for the Tavignanu river is part of the emerging debate on rights for nature, and more specifically rivers, which are increasingly often at the centre of environmental news. This debate is urgent given the serious crisis of biodiversity, as a change of legal paradigm could help to mitigate it. The Tavignanu river is the first river in France to be bestowed with a declaration of river rights.

The European Member of Parliament Marie Toussaint recently launched a consultation, in which IFGR is participating, aimed at recognising the rights of nature in Europe. This consultation aims to gather proposals from actors committed to preserving nature in Europe, and to promote the resulting recommendations in every piece of environmental legislation discussed at European level.

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