Save the World’s Most Polluted River

Target: Siti Nurbaya Bakar, Indonesia’s Minister of Environment and Forestry

Goal: Urge the Indonesian government to initiate large-scale efforts to reduce levels of pollution entering the country’s Citarum River, considered the most polluted river on the planet.

Indonesia’s Citarum River, located in West Java, is arguably one of the most, if not the most, polluted river on Earth. Around 5 million people live in its basin and are regularly exposed to over 5,000 square miles of polluted water, full of lead, arsenic, mercury, and raw sewage, as well as plastic and other types of refuse. According to The Daily Telegraph, Over 30 million people overall rely on the river “for agricultural, domestic and personal use.”

The Telegraph also notes that some 200 textile factories line the banks of the river, their chemical effluent poisoning the river near-continuously. In many places, the trash floating on the river is so dense that the water cannot be seen beneath the thick carpet of waste.

A commitment made by the Indonesian government to clean up the river in 2011 is admirable: The revitalization project for the Citarum commits several billion dollars to cleaning up the river over the course of 15 years. (This effort is also bolstered by a $500 million loan from the Asian Development Bank in 2008, during which time it dubbed the Citarum as the world’s dirtiest river.)

However, whether this effort will be successful enough to return the river to a state of health is debatable, and it does nothing to stop the river from becoming polluted again in the future. This is why proper waste diversion practices for municipal, industrial, and agricultural waste created along the river is a great necessity. Please urge you government to coordinate large-scale efforts to divert waste, at the source, away from the Citarum River, alongside the admirable national efforts to revitalize its waters.


Dear Minister Bakar,

The Citarum is one of Indonesia’s most important rivers. Despite the fact that the Citarum is arguably the most polluted river on the planet, over 30 million people rely on it as a source of fresh water. At the same time, roughly 5 million individuals living in its vicinity are regularly exposed to over 5,000 square miles of polluted water and sediment, containing toxins like lead, arsenic, and mercury, not to mention raw sewage, as well as plastic and other types of waste.

Even if Indonesia’s efforts to clean the river prove successful, they will be for naught if it is simply polluted once again due to a continued lack of controls on waste diversion and recycling for factories, municipalities, and farms along the river. Please act to prevent waste from entering the Citarum.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Rafael Neddermeyer

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  1. Kalliope says:

    Well, in my opinion it is not enough to “save” this river and clean up this pollution. It is the whole waste-behaviour which is in need to be changed by creating a good and sustainable recycle-system and also the people are in need to be educated in case of what they do, if the trash is thrown into environment. AND – it are also the companies, which have to think over what to use to wrap goods more sustainable to not produce this kind of trash.

    • Kalliope very well said. Also they should control their population which is a pollution way also like so many others in asia and africa and middle east. When a population control is done, the country can organize, and manage to overcome poverty, otherwise is just a vicious cycle.

  2. Alison Zacharis says:

    We humans are experts at shitting in our own nests. Unfortunately other species are forced to live with the crap we like to leave behind and are suffering and dying because of it, so it’s time we started respecting the planet and learned to clean up our bloody messes!

  3. Gene Sengstake says:

    WHAT A MESS!!!!! Evidently neither the people nor the government officials are outraged/mad/care enough to do anything about it – so why should anyone else care? Good question. This is just another example of where the/our world is headed – and most people just don’t really give a tinker’s dam. So “they” and “we all” simply live with it. There are so many other really important things to be concerned with – right??? (wrong!)



  6. So many people are unemployed in this area, why not give them work! Clean up your country and make it inviting for tourism which in turn will provide more jobs!

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