Rotten river: life on one of the world’s most polluted waterways – photo essay

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Indonesia’s Citarum is relied upon by millions, but decades of pollution have choked it with chemicals and rubbish

  • Words and pictures by Andrea Carrubba in Dayeuhkolot

The smell is the first thing that hits you on the banks of the Citarum River in West Java, Indonesia. The odour is dense: rubbish rotting in hot sun mixed in with an acrid tone of chemical waste.

Some 9 million people live in close contact with the river, where levels of faecal coliform bacteria are more than 5,000 times mandatory limits, according to the findings of the Asian Development Bank in 2013.

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