Despite our best conservation efforts, water pollution remains one of the biggest environmental challenges facing the planet. Untreated wastewater continues to be dumped in alarming numbers. According to some estimates, more than 80% of the global wastewater ends up polluting oceans, rivers, and lakes.

The devastating impact that it has caused to our environment is irreversible, many climate activists fear. Even though efforts have been made to prevent similar atrocities from happening in the future, there’s hasn’t been much change in the on-ground reality. 

There's a human cost that we bear as a result of these actions. Unsafe and unclean water ends up killing more people than wars and other forms of violence combined in a single year. Under 1% of the planet's freshwater remains accessible to us. 

With no meaningful changes being witnessed, climate activists are of the view that this problem is only going to be exacerbated in the years to come. It’s unfortunate that such a list can even be created to begin with, but here are 12 that are vying for the ignominious reward of being the most polluted river in the world.


River Pollution in Asia

Ganges River, India

By most accounts, India’s Ganges River is one of the most polluted rivers in the entire world. It happens to be the third-largest river in the world that serves more than two billion people. 

A large section of the country’s population also considers it to be a sacred river. They believe that the river will cleanse people of their sins. Millions of people bathe in the river perhaps with no regard or even knowledge of the fact that raw sewage is dumped into the Ganges from more than 1,100 industrial units.


Yamuna River, India

The Yamuna is a tributary of the Ganges. It's India's second most polluted river. Agricultural and industrial waste is routinely dumped in this river in addition to raw sewage being dumped over the length of the Yamuna. All this combines to form toxic foam in the Yamuna river that then slowly permeates through the subsoil system of the region.

The water in this river has been polluted to the point that even water treatment may not reduce the level of toxicity. Studies of the water have shown that it has a pH level of 11, higher than the pH of 7 that normal drinking water has.


Citarum River, Indonesia

The blame for Citarum River's pollution can be blamed on the factories dumping their waste in it. The dense population around the river also contributes to its destruction. Mercury levels in the Citarum are reported to be more than 100 times the accepted standard. 

With millions of people relying on this river for access to water, they're forced to use this water despite its sorry state.


Yellow River, China

China's Yellow River was also known as the Huang River. It was widely known for its yellow sediment called loess. It has become a casualty of China's rapid industrialization. 

Billions of tons of untreated industrial sewage have been dumped in the Yellow River. Chemical factories and coal miners release wastewater back into it, leading to the destruction of Asia's third longest river that flows through nine provinces of China.


Buriganga River, Bangladesh

Buriganga is also called the Old Ganges in Bangladesh. It's the biggest river in the country and one of its main economic resources. Millions rely on it as their source of life. 

However, tanneries that border the river are among its biggest polluters alongside human waste. The level of contamination so severe that the water of the Buriganga has turned black. The aquatic life has since died.


Marilao River, Philippines

Down in the Philippines, the Marilao river provides water for consumption and irrigation to millions of people. It's their only source of water. Despite that, the Marilao has been heavily polluted by tanneries, waste dumping, and gold refineries. 

The water even has rocks with heavy metals. This poses a severe health hazard to the people who use it for drinking. 


Jordan River, Israel

Covering a distance of over 150-mi, the Jordan River in Israel has been contaminated by unchecked waste disposal. 

This has led to an increase in the water's salinity. The increase in population has also resulted in the pollution of this river due to waste dumping.


River Pollution in Europe

Sarno River, Italy

The Sarno holds the distinction of possibly being Europe's most polluted river. Despite its source being clean and fit for drinking, unchecked dumping of agricultural, human, and industrial waste has contaminated the Sarno. 

Whenever there’s flooding, which happens quite frequently, the toxic river water spills onto the land and that causes soil degradation.


Danube River, Europe

The Danube River now happens to be among the most contaminated rivers in Europe. That's largely due to antibiotics. 

Up to seven antibiotics have been found by researchers that are above the safety threshold in all of the nine countries that the Danube passes through in Central and Eastern Europe.


River Pollution in the US

Mississippi River, United States

Despite leading the environmental change initiative and contributing billions of dollars for this purpose, the United States isn't free of polluted waterways. The Mississippi River is one of the most polluted rivers in the country.

A Dead Zone has been created by unchecked industrial waste, sewage, and agricultural runoff. It measures over 8,000 square miles at the mouth of the river. The marine life in the river has been significantly reduced due to multiple oil spillages over the years. 

The river remains crucial support for commercial and recreational activities in addition to being the source of drinking water for more than 18 million Americans.


Passaic River, United States

Located in New Jersey, the Passaic River has borne the brunt of industrialization in the watershed. The massive manufacturing facilities have released contaminants like mercury, dioxin, and PCBs in the river. 

This, combined with the release of untreated sewage, has significantly deteriorated the river's water quality.


River Pollution in South America

Matanza/Riachuelo River, Argentina

This 40-mi stream in Argentina is regarded as the most polluted river in South America. That's due to the massive amounts of industrial waste that's dumped in it by the factories along its banks, particularly tanneries. 

Heavy metals are among its most dangerous contaminants. The river is also known as the Slaughterhouse River, above-featured because waste from slaughterhouses is also dumped in it. This gives the river a very foul smell.


Do your part to protect the environment

Now more than ever before, we must come together and play our role in the protection of the environment. Simple, individual steps can bring about change that can help reduce further damage to the rivers of our planet. 

We can also support water conservation efforts in addition to demanding from governments and relevant authorities that the unchecked dumping of industrial and human waste into these rivers must be stopped at all costs. 

Other steps to protect the environment can include supporting reforestation efforts. Aspiration enables its customers to plant a tree with every transaction that they make with their cards through our Plant Your Change program. It works with leading reforestation partners across the globe to plant trees and reduce your carbon footprint.

Open an checking and savings account with Aspiration and unlock a world of opportunities to contribute to the betterment of our planet while also saving and growing your money.

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