The World's Dirtiest River

Channel 4

Unreported World

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Millions of Indonesians rely on the Citarum River for drinking water, but Reporter Seyi Rhodes and Director Hugo Ward discover the river's chocked with astounding amounts of garbage and polluted with dangerous industrial chemicals.

The team accompanies former fisherman Herman and his son as they push their boat through rubbish which is so thick that they can’t see the  surface of the river. Forty years ago Herman made a good living from fishing.  Now, with 60 per cent of the fish species wiped out as the river is starved of oxygen and polluted with toxic waste, he is after another catch – plastic which can be recycled.

Thirty miles upstream, the river passes through Majalaya - a major industrial area and home to a booming textiles industry. The Unreported World team sees how water from the Citarum is channelled through one village, polluting the drinking wells and communal washing areas.   One man tells Rhodes that he has to use a cloth to filter the water as it irritates his skin: “On Sundays the water is a little bit better, less murky. Other days it turns green, yellow, red, and black,” he says.

The village children are clearly suffering from contact with the water, which is contaminated not only with the textile  waste, but also human excrement - as the channels serve as both sewer and  bathroom. One local doctor says around 60 per cent of local children have skin infections like impetigo as a result.

First Broadcast

April 11, 2014

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