The Most Polluted Rivers In the World

Boats on the Ganges.
Boats on the Ganges.

Human waste and factory runoff are both common sources for pollutants found within rivers, and rivers across the world are vulnerable to these pollutants. However, there are some rivers on the planet where these pollutants are found in greater quantity, sometimes reaching crisis.

The Most Polluted Rivers In the World

The Sarno River, Italy

The Sarno River is located in Italy and stretches for 15 miles. It is a relatively short river, starting at Mt. Sarno and running downstream to the Bay of Naples. It has two main tributaries along its stretch, the Solofrana River and Cavaoila River. While The Sarno may be short, it is known as the most polluted river in Europe. The Sarno is relatively clean upstream where it supports fish and other small aquatic animals but this changes downstream where it joins its tributaries where the river start showing the increased level of pollutions through chemical foam easily seen at its surface. The chemical waste has been traced to have its origin from dumping of industrial and agricultural waste into the river.

Citarum River, Indonesia

The Citarum River is one of the largest rivers in Indonesia and stretches over 200 miles from its origin in the Wayang Mountains to its drainage in the Java Sea. The river is extremely important to the economy of Indonesia as it is used for the irrigation of thousands of acres of agriculture and is also used for hydroelectric power generation. However, the Citarum is also famously known as the most polluted river in the world. In the downstream areas of the river, trash and plastics are dumped in such large quantities that one cannot see the surface of the water. A major contributor to the toxic waste found within the river at former textile factories which were located along the riverbank. Lead, mercury, and arsenic have all been found within the river.

The Ganges/Ganga River, India

The Ganga River, also known as the Ganges, is the biggest and longest river in India. It is also an important religious site for Hindus. Running 1,569 miles from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, the Ganga provides a lifeline for about 500 million people along its banks who are the largest number of people supported by a river anywhere in the world. However, this huge population has made the Ganges one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Increased dumping of human waste, as well as industrial waste, is noted as the most common form of pollution of the river.

Effects of river pollution

Pollution of rivers has profound implications on the aquatic life within the river as well as human beings who depend on the rivers. Some rivers such as the Citarum have seen their fish disappear completely, killed by a number of toxins dumped into the rivers while others such as the Ganges with their industrial pollutants saw the local people who ingest mercury-laden fish and adversely affecting their health.

The Most Polluted Rivers In the World

RankRiver NameLocation
1Sarno RiverItaly
2Citarum RiverIndonesia
3Passaic RiverUnited States
4Ganga RiverIndia
5Matanza RiverArgentina
6Buriganga RiverBangladesh
7Marilao RiverPhillipines
8Mississippi RiverUnited States
9Yellow RiverChina
10Doce RiverBrazil

More in Environment