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A court rules that pollution has violated the rights of a river that runs through Ecuador’s capital

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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — In an usual ruling, a court in Ecuador ruled Sunday that pollution has violated the rights of a river that runs through the capital, Quito.

The city government appealed the ruling, which is based on an article of Ecuador’s Constitution that recognizes the rights of natural features like the Machángara River.

Activists who filed the complaint said Sunday the decision is “historic.”

“This is historic because the river runs right through Quito, and because of its influence, people live very close to it,” said Darío Iza, whose group Kitu Kara filed the complaint on behalf of the river.

The court ruled that while appeals proceed, the government will have to come up with a plan to clean up the Machángara.

The city of 2.6 million people dumps all sorts of effluents and contaminants into the Machángara, which starts high in the Andes mountains. But by the time it runs through Quito, it encounters problems such as a near-total lack of treatment of the waste water that is dumped into it.

“The river carries away tons of garbage that comes down from gullies and hillsides,” according to the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature.

The river has average levels of 2% oxygen, which makes it difficult for aquatic life to thrive.

In some parts of Latin America and North America, inhabitants have Constitutional rights to a clean environment, but Ecuador is one of the few countries that recognize the rights of natural features not to be degraded or polluted.