For generations, Indonesia’s Citarum River has provided fish to eat, irrigation for rice fields, and fresh water for drinking, washing and cooking for the millions who live along its banks.
But today, it’s known as the most polluted river in the world.
The river supplies water to textile factories that make clothes for some of the biggest fashion brands in the world – H&M, Gap, Uniqlo. It also provides an open sewer for the factories to dump toxic chemicals, thousands of litres at a time, creating an ecological disaster.
Fishermen used to make a living from the Citarum, but now the only thing they catch is plastic.
“There are no more fish here, because the water is too polluted. There are none left,” says Rudi, who now spends his days collecting plastic bottles. Each day he picks up more than 50kg of plastic.
Nour, a mother of two young children, uses water from the river to wash clothes, do the dishes and wash vegetables.
“The colour of the water – sometimes it’s black, sometimes it’s red,” she says.
Nour says her two children are always sick. She blames the river.
“The oldest has nausea, no appetite and headaches. The last time we took him to the doctor, he told me he had the symptoms of a liver problem.”
101 East exposes the toxic state of the Citarum and investigates the human cost of Indonesia’s poisoned river.
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