Top 20 Most Polluted Rivers in the World

” This is the year 2070 I have just turned 50, but I my appearance is of somebody of 85 . I suffer from serious kidney problems, because I do not drink enough water. I’m afraid I do not have much time left to live. I am one of the oldest people in this society.” – This was how, one of the eminent personalities of India, Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam, envisioned the year 2070. However,it seems 2070 is not that far, all thanks to increasing rates of water pollution. According to UNEP 1 in 10 people lack access to clean drinking water, and approximately 14,000 people die every day due to direct and indirect effects of water pollution. It is rightly said that the third world war would be about water. Here is a list of 20 most polluted rivers in the world:

  1. Pasig river

Located in Philippines , River Pasig is considered one among the dead rivers, by the ecologists. The 25 kilometer long river started to get polluted by the surrounding industries. Due to the pollution of river water, fishes reduced at an alarming rate.  Furthermore, the dumping of animal waste and industrial pollutants aggravated the issue. However, efforts are being made to improve the quality of river water.

2. Cuyahoga river

Located in Ohio, Cuyahoga river gained attention just because of its high pollution levels. The river was so polluted that it literally caught fire in 1969. As per the reports of Times news paper , pollution was so high that the river oozed rather than flowed. The major waste item was oil soaked debris, which was set to fire by sparks from a nearby moving train.

3. Amazon River

Considered to be one of the largest rivers , Amazon also accounts for being the largest drainage basin of the world. Mining activities that happen around the river is considered as the major contributor of pollution. Deforestation, damming projects, and improper fishing habits also add to the pollution of this river.

4. Ohio river

Ohio river is the most polluted water body of United States.  The major supplier of pollutants to this river is the DuPont chemical company,which has been discharging Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) to the river since 1960s. PFOA is a carcinogen and has a severe impact on the human body, as this toxic substance affects immune system and hormones. According to USA Today “Ohio topped the nation’s waterways for pollution discharges from industry at 24,180,821 pounds in 2013”.

5. Mississippi river

Missisiippi is the second most polluted waterway of United States.The major pollutants are arsenic, mercury, nitrate and benzene. According to the conservation group Environment Missouri , every year pollutants amounting up to 12.5 million pounds are dumped into the river.

6. Sarno river

Located in Italy, Sarno is the most polluted river of Europe. The discharge of agricultural and industrial waste without proper waste water treatment resulted in the pollution of this river. Chemical foams could be observed in the flowing water. The efforts taken to decrease the pollution level in the river were not successful.

7. Doce river


The collapse of a dam in November 2015 resulted in polluting Doce river of Brazil. High levels of Arsenic and mercury were found in the river post collapse. The dam belonged to a mining company Sumarco. This event was considered one of the worst environment disaster in Brazil.

8. Hindon River

Located in India, Hindon is a colored river , due to pollution. Particle pollutants and industrial pollution along with municipal waste resulted in the extreme toxicity of water. People who are still dependent on the river water are diagnosed with many deadly diseases including cancer.

9. Mithi River

There is more sewage and industrial waste in Mithi river than water. The stagnant water in the river due to pollution, changed this river in Mumbai into a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The disability to regulate pollution at Mithi might soon lead to the death of another river.

10. Euphrates River

Although having the fame of being the longest river of western Asia, Euphrates is known for being one of the most polluted rivers in the world. Euphrates River is polluted mostly by agricultural wastes which increases the salinity of the water. Another major issue is the concentration of heavy metals in the water like cadmium, Iron and Nickel.

11. Yangtze River

Located in China, Yangtze has become a scapegoat for rapid industrialisation. The pollution has increased at a massive rate of 72% within the last few years. The water reservoir project, started around the premises of Yangtze had resulted in eutrophication i.e dense growth of algae in the river. This might lead to the death of the river in the near future as eutrophication reduces the oxygen content in the water.

12. River Brahmaputra

Brahmaputra is an example of how tourism adds to the pollution of a river. The floating restaurants set up on the river, the industrial effluents, and urban sewage are the major contributors in polluting the river. Brahmaputra, which used to be lifeline for many people in the urban states of Guwahati, is now responsible for a number of water-borne diseases.

13. Yellow river

Coal mining and industrial effluents are polluting China’s most talked about Yellow river. The coal mining industry uses a lot of water from the river and discharges huge amount of waste water back into it.

14. Jordan river

Having biblical significance, Jordan River, believed to be the baptism site of Jesus, is one of the most polluted rivers of Israel. The refugee crisis and spiking population have resulted in the contamination of Jordan River. Like most of the other rivers, Jordan is also adulterated by effluents and sewage.

15.Yamuna river

The pollution of river Yamuna has reached an all new level, as the water of this river is not suitable for using even after treatment. The river almost has reached the status of dead and the efforts to revamp are not quite successful, proves the pollution levels. While the perfect pH of water should be around 7, that of Yamuna’s water is 11.

16.Buriganga river

Flowing through the capital city of Dhaka in Bangladesh, Buriganga is one of the most contaminated rivers of the Asian countries. The water is no more transparent but is like a black gel with a foul smell.  Human excreta, industrial effluents and urban wastes are the major contaminants.

17. Mantaza riachuelo

ARGENTINA – JULY 02: A man looks down over a pile of garbage along the banks of the Riachuelo River near Buenos Aires, Argentina, on July 2, 2009. The World Bank in June approved loans of as much as $3.3 billion to Argentina, including $840 million aimed at improving the contaminated Matanza Riachuelo River basin. (Photo by Diego Giudice/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The river basin of Mantaza in Argentina is often described as the most polluted area of the world. Almost 15,000 industries pour their waste water into the river. While the permissible levels of particle pollutants are around 220ppm, the particle pollutants in this river almost amount to 1100 ppm.

18. River Ganges

Ganga, is the largest and one of the most sacred rivers of India. Indian epics say that prince Bhagirath brought the river from the heavens to earth. However, it is a known fact that Ganga is no more as holy as it once was. The river is contaminated with sewage, industrial waste and waste emerging out of religious rites and rituals. The Narendra Modi government has announced a National Mission to clean Ganga to save the river.

19. Marilao river

Marliao river was one of the highlights of 2011 Green Peace reports. Refining industries, mines, toxic metals are the major pollutants of this river. This is also posing a great threat to the aqua culture industries of Philippines.

20. River Citarum

Citarum is considered as the most polluted river in the world and it accounts for the death of around 50,000 people each year.  400 tonnes of livestock wastes are dumped into the river each day, along with 280 tonnes of industrial waste.