10 Most Polluted Rivers in the World

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Despite our efforts, water pollution remains a significant environmental challenge. It is estimated that around 80% of the world’s wastewater is dumped into rivers and oceans. 

Climate activists are increasingly worried that the effects of climate change are already irreversible. Despite efforts to prevent it, atrocities still occur on an ongoing basis. 

In a single year, the lack of freshwater kills more people than wars and violence. Many environmental activists believe that the issue of climate change is only going to get worse as long as the current governments fail to take action. 

The following section lists the ten most polluted rivers globally, considering how much people drink from them and why.

1. Ganges River, India

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The polluted river bank of Ganges (source)

According to most accounts, India’s Ganges River is one of the world’s most polluted rivers. It is the world’s third-largest river, with a population of almost two billion people.

It is also regarded as a sacred river by a considerable portion of the country’s inhabitants. On the other hand, the current reality is sure to ruin any spiritual pilgrimage you intend to make to this holy river. 

Bathing in it will suffocate any remaining health. Industrial, chemical, and sewage waste, as well as soap from washing clothes and bathing, religious gifts, and even dead bodies, clog this enormous river. 

Every year, almost 1.2 billion pounds of plastic are shamelessly dumped into it. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), people living along the banks of the holy river Ganga are at a higher risk of cancer than people living elsewhere in India. 

In the nation of believers, one might ask whether such symptoms of karma coming back to harm them for disrespecting Mother Ganga are visible.

2. Citarum river, Indonesia

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Fisherman on Citarum river (source)

The factories that discharge their garbage in the Citarum River are responsible for the river’s pollution. The river’s deterioration is aided by the dense population that surrounds it.

The mercury levels in the Citarum are said to be over 100 times higher than the acceptable standard. Millions of people are obliged to drink the river water despite its poor condition. 

3. Sarno River, Italy

Sarno River (source)

The Sarno River in southern Italy, near Pompeii and Naples, is often regarded as Europe’s most contaminated river in a continent where most, if not all, rivers are polluted. 

The river at Mt. Sarno is nearly pristine, but as one descends in height, the river becomes increasingly filthy until it is covered with greasy scum and chemical foam. 

The Sarno River, polluted by industrial and agricultural wastes and plenty of urban garbage, is the Bay of Naples’ primary source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). 

Surprisingly, PAHs are the most common organic contaminant. Italy has plans to clean up the Sarno and other rivers in the area, which is encouraging. 

Remedial dredging on the Sarno River began in the early 2000s, so in the future years and decades, at least some of the pollution will be alleviated, if not eliminated.

4. Mississippi River, United States of America

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Boat on Muddy Mississippi River (source)

River pollution is also common in the United States. The Mississippi River is also known as the Big Muddy because its waters are typically brown due to silt. 

However, the Big Muddy holds much more than mud, as it has a high level of pollutants. It’s commonly referred to as America’s Colon. 

Aside from sewage, agricultural pollution is likely the most significant pollutant in the river. A 6,000 to 8,000 square mile “Dead Zone” exists at the entrance of the Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico. 

This occurrence is due to the Mississippi River’s high nitrogen-based fertilizer run-off, which disrupts the food chain and results in shallow oxygen levels in coastal waters.

Green activists are urging the US Environmental Protection Agency to include agricultural run-off – mainly nitrogen and phosphorus pollution – in the Clean Water Act of 1972’s procedures in the hopes of cleaning up this magnificent river. 

However, because the federal government prefers the states to act first, we’ll have to wait and watch how this scenario plays out.

5. Yellow River, China

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Yellow River (source)

The Yellow River, whose water is loaded with yellow silt known as loess, hence its name, is vital to China’s well-being, even though it has flooded in the past, killing millions of people. 

The river is problematic in another way: it is so heavily polluted that it is unsuited for agricultural use. More than four billion tons of sewage are dumped into the river each year.

And, as China continues to industrialize at breakneck speed, the Yellow River has devolved into a toxic waste dump, causing river water to turn colors other than yellow.

Environmental activists in China, on the other hand, want to clean up the Yellow River. Green Camel Bell was founded in 2004 to improve western China’s depleting ecosystems and aware people of pollution. 0ppo

The Chinese government must halt communities and industries from dumping rubbish into the Yellow River, and the river’s color will hopefully revert to its previous state.

6. Doce River, Brazil

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Muddy Doce river after diaster (source)

The Doce River, which means “sweet water,” runs for 853 kilometers through southeast Brazil, delivering much-needed freshwater to Latin America’s largest steel-making region. 

Unfortunately, two containment dams at Mariana broke in November 2015, pouring 60 million cubic meters of iron ore sludge into the Doce River, killing at least 17 people and injuring many more. 

This muck is so high in heavy metals that the aquatic life in this once-sweet river has been devastated and may never recover, putting the lives of many anglers at risk. 

Many people drank water from the river; now, they must drink bottled water for months, years, or who knows how long.

The government of Brazil has sued BHP Billiton, the world’s largest mining firm, for $5 billion for building the dams. However, no one acknowledges when or if the Doce River be clean after this ecological disaster, one of the worst in world history.

7. Marilao River, Philippians

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Workers collect garbage from the Marilao river (source)

The Marilao River travels through the Philippines’ Bulacan Province before emptying into Manila Bay. Tanneries, textile manufacturers, piggeries, gold refineries, and municipal dumps all pollute the river in various ways. 

The high amounts of hazardous compounds and heavy metals in the water are especially concerning because they pose a significant health risk. 

The Marilao River’s water contains almost no dissolved oxygen in some areas, effectively eliminating aquatic life. As a result, the Marilao River is one of the Philippines’ 50 dead rivers.

Fortunately for the Filipino people, Greenpeace has been studying the problem of water pollution in the Philippines. It has produced the report “Hidden Consequences,” which may draw attention to the issue.

The information persuaded the Philippine government to generate funds for Marilao clean up and other filthy rivers in this Pacific archipelago.

8. Buriganga River, Bangladesh

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Buriganga river pollution (source)

The Buriganga River, also recognized as the Old Ganges, in Bangladesh, one of the world’s most densely populated countries, is polluted in every way: chemical waste from textile plants and factories of all varieties, domestic garbage, decaying fruit and vegetables, medical trash, sewage, stagnant animals, plastics, and petroleum. 

Dhaka, in reality, discharges 4,500 tons of solid trash into the river daily. The sewage poured into the river is also a severe issue, as around 80% of it is untreated.

The Buriganga River emits a foul odor these days, especially near Dhaka, a city of 10 million people, and no aquatic life can survive in it. 

Increased water flow is one strategy to clean up the river. Still, this option will be difficult to implement because the Himalayan glaciers that feed the river are melting owing to climate change. 

Of course, a better alternative would be to stop throwing waste and other pollutants into the river, but this will be extremely expensive.

9. Cuyahoga River, USA

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Cuyahoga River fire that fueled EPA creation (source)

Since 1868, the Cuyahoga River has been famous – or notorious – for catching fire several times, the most recent being in June 1969. 

Because it meanders through a congested metropolitan environment, the Cuyahoga River, which flows through Cleveland, Ohio, has been susceptible to several sorts of pollution, particularly industrial waste, making it explosive at times. 

Intriguingly, the Cuyahoga River’s condition aided the late 1960s ecological movement in the United States, whose motto was “Ecology Now.” The Clean Water Act of 1972 was instituted as a result of this shared passion.

After 50 years, it appears unlikely that the Cuyahoga River would catch fire again anytime soon, thanks to Ohio cleanup efforts that have restored the river’s water quality; it now supports more than 60 kinds of fish. 

Nonetheless, it is one of 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern since it drains into Lake Erie, formerly a filthy body of water but now supports essential fisheries.

10. Tijuana River, Mexico

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Tijuana river sewage problem (source)

Although the Tijuana River is barely 120 miles long, rarely more than tens of feet broad, and occasionally carries little water, it is probably one of the world’s most contaminated rivers. 

The Tijuana River flows north through the Tijuana River Valley, passing through the developing city of Tijuana, Mexico (population 1.8 million), which is responsible for most pollution, before crossing the Mexico/US border and debouching into the Pacific Ocean. 

When it rains, 27 million US gallons of sewage are thrown into the Tijuana River every day as of 2015. Toxic substances like DDT, hexavalent chromium, benzene, lead, and mercury, as well as countless tons of tires and other debris, can be discovered in the river. 

When the water evaporates, the toxicity in the riverbed becomes airborne for everyone in the region to breathe! Will the landfill and running sewer ever be cleaned up? 

Under a 2020 agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada, $300 million will be committed to reducing pollution in the Tijuana River, with at least some of this money going to the International Boundary Wastewater Treatment Plant in San Francisco’s South Bay.


Furthermore, hazardous waste releases from businesses, metropolitan areas, and agricultural contamination have polluted rivers, causing significant water issues such as a lack of safe drinking water and many other health consequences.