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  • Writer's pictureFelix Ngige

12 Most Polluted Rivers In The World

1. GANGES RIVER The Ganges River is the most sacred river in India. The Hindus believe that the river cleanses people from their sins. Ganges River is the third largest river in the world with

a consumption base of over two billion people. While the river is sacred, it’s a victim of massive water pollution due to the dumping of raw sewage and chemicals, and higher incidences of waterborne diseases have been reported in communities frequently exposed to this holy river, now covered with a layer of floating plastics and other wastes.


The Citarum River is one of the most polluted rivers in the world. The industrial wastes from 2,000 factories have led to an increase in the mercury levels of the water far above the legit level. The river is dirty and polluted from the source, all the way to the outlets. Similar to the Ganges River, the Citarum River serves a big population. Indonesia, the home of the Citarum, exceeds a national population of 200 million residents.The river flows through an area where there are heavy human settlements coupled with a number of factories. The river has continually robbed the country of people with over 50,000 deaths annually.

3. YELLOW RIVER For thousands of years, the Yellow River has been one of the most famous rivers in China due to its unique colour. However, this river has become a dumping ground for chemical factories, making the water too toxic even for agriculture. More specifically, the coal mining industry releases a lot of waste back to the river after using water from it to run its operations. Nevertheless, people are still dependent on the river for drinking water. It is because of this that the area around the river has seen a rise in the occurrence of waterborne diseases, cancer and birth defects. Most recently, there are efforts to dissuade people from drinking the water from this river since it is unsafe for human or animal consumption.

4. SARNO RIVER This is arguably the most polluted river in Europe. Although its source is clean and safe for drinking, industrial and agricultural wastes have made this river so toxic that it is associated with an alarming increase in liver cancer cases in the area. Worse, the river easily floods, leading to mudslides and toxicity in soil nearby. Poor waste treatment control has led to the increased pollution of the Sarno River.

5. BURIGANGA RIVER This river is a source of life for millions of Bangladesh residents. It is also a major economic resource for the country since it is one of the longest rivers in the country. The river is mainly polluted by the tanneries which border the river, as well as human waste, plastics, and animal carcasses. The river has turned black, and the aquatic life in the river has since died.

6. MARILAO RIVER This river is home to millions of Philippine residents who use the water for drinking and also for irrigation. The pollution of the river is mostly from wastes from tanneries, dumping and gold refineries. The dumping of non-recyclable materials such as plastic bottles is present on the surface of the water. In addition to this, the water has rocks bearing heavy metals, which pose a health hazard to the residents. The river, like the Sarno, is prone to flooding, which brings the wastes to the land, thus leading to soil degradation. The pollution of the water is detrimental to the fish industries in the Philippines since toxic metals such as lead contribute to the death of aquaculture.

7. MISSISSIPPI RIVER Mississippi is one of the longest rivers in the world. As such, it serves millions of US residents. The river is brown in color, owing to the constant release of waste into the river. The aquatic life in the river has reduced alarmingly due to various oil spillages in the past. More waste comes from industries and farmers who use harmful chemicals and release them into the river. The river has a high level of nitrogen-based fertilizer run-off, which in addition to leaching in the soil, upsets the food chain and reduces the oxygen levels in the waters, thus causing death of aquatic life. The major pollutants are benzene, mercury and arsenic.

8. JORDAN RIVER The source of the river is clean and fit for human consumption. However, as the river flows, it increases in toxicity due to the many wastes disposal. This has caused an increase in the salinity of the water. Most of the pollution comes from the refugee crisis of the country, coupled with the increase in population, both local and international.

9.MATANZA-RIACHUELO RIVER The river is based in Argentina and is arguably the most polluted river in South America. The presence of industries around the river has not made any cleaning easier. The reason for this is that there are millions of tons of sewage released into the river on a daily basis. Also, there are heavy metals in the river, such as mercury and lead, which lead to high cases of cancer. These have come to existence due to the release from chemical industries. Further, the river, also known as Slaughterhouse River, is home to wastes from slaughterhouses and tanneries, which are rampant along the river. Due to this, the river has a foul smell.

10. YAMUNA RIVER This is the second most polluted river in India after the Ganges. It boasts its source as the Himalayas, but the river gets more polluted as it moves. The major issue is the poor management of raw sewage by the Indian government. There are few functional sewage plants in the city of New Delhi, which dampens the glory of the big capital city. Furthermore, agricultural and industrial wastes have also played a role in the pollution of the Yamuna. The river has been polluted so much that the establishment of water treatment might not reduce the level of toxicity in the river. Unlike normal water with a pH of 7, the pH level of the Yamuna is 11. This has been caused by traces of poison in the water, and hence the pH.

11. YANGTZE RIVER The rapid industrialization in China has led to major pollution of the Yangtze River.As a result, there has been a growth in algae through eutrophication. There are many negative effects of this, including the death of aquatic life since this drastically reduces available oxygen in the water.

12. RIVER NILE In Egypt, most common diseases are bacterial diarrhea, typhoid fever, and schistosomiasis. All of these illnesses have one thing in common - they are often associated with unsafe water and poor sanitation. The Nile is a likely source of these problems. Egypt is the most populous, agricultural and industrial country in the basin. ost sewage release to the river takes place in Lower Egypt. Nile pollutants are derived from sources such as industrial wastewater, oil pollution, municipal wastewater, agricultural drainage, and include natural cyanotoxins. Besides excessive water extraction from the River Nile for irrigation, growing saltwater incursion in coastal areas and the decline in the availability of freshwater in the delta region brought huge problems for species living in its waters.

Preserving our beloved rivers are critical in protecting our oceans and marine life. Rivers flow in the ocean and the ocean becomes polluted when rivers are contaminated. If you want to become a sustainability champion and to power waves of change around the world, volunteer or advocate Sea Smart School, donate to our programs, or bring your kids to our after school programs in Vancouver so they can learn about different marine animals, cool ocean science, the threats impacting these animals and simple actions we can take to help.

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