As the UN Sustainable Development Goals call for water and sanitation for all by 2030, the international organization says scarcity is increasing and more than half of the population on Earth will live in regions under water stress by 2050. The UN World Water Day, which has taken place on March 22 every year since 1993, aims to raise awareness of the reality that so many people live without access to safe drinking water.
As World Water Day 2021 approaches, Reuters photographers used drones to capture spectacular images and video of polluted waterways around the world.
Clogged with trash
Indonesia’s Citarum River in West Java is seen here on March 15, littered with garbage from households and factories that produce textiles. The Indonesian government is committed to cleaning up the river, considered one of the most polluted in the world.
(Willy Kurniawan / Reuters)
Below, the Pisang Batu River on the outskirts of Jakarta made national headlines in 2019 after plastic and organic waste from neighboring households covered its surface, stretching for 1.5 km . The river now has less waste after several cleaning operations, but the water remains black and has a strong odor.
(Willy Kurniawan / Reuters)
No more streams as dumping grounds
An aerial view shows garbage and sewage on the shore of Guanabara Bay in Rio de Janeiro, March 17. The rivers that flow through the metropolis of Rio dump hundreds of millions of liters of raw sewage into the bay every day.
(Pilar Olivares / Reuters)
An aerial view shows an abandoned sofa on the Tiete River near Tiete Ecological Park in Sao Paulo, Brazil, March 17. The Rio Tiete, which flows like a vast open sewer through Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, is among the most polluted rivers in the country.
(Amanda Perobelli / Reuters)
The Interceptor Poniente Canal in Cuautitlan is part of a waterway drainage system around Mexico City and is heavily polluted with sewage and garbage from neighboring communities.
(Carlos Jass / Reuters)
An aerial photo taken on March 16 shows a drainage pipe supplying the Euphrates with sewage, near Najaf, Iraq.
(Thai Al-Sudani / Reuters)
Senegal’s Hann Bay, seen here on March 17, is contaminated with garbage and raw sewage flowing through open channels into the ocean at the eastern end of the Dakar peninsula. The waterfront is discolored by stagnant algae.
(Zohra Bensemra / Reuters)
The River Tame is seen near Denton, England on March 17. A report from the University of Manchester in 2018 found that the river had “the worst” level of microplastic pollution on record in the world at that time.
(Phil Noble / Reuters)
Plastic trash can
Two barges attempt to collect plastic waste that threatens to plug a dam on Lake Potpecko and the operation of a nearby hydroelectric power station near the town of Priboj, Serbia, on January 29.
(Marko Djurica / Reuters)
Endangered freshwater reservoir
Lake Baikal in Russia’s Irkutsk region remains one of the cleanest freshwater reservoirs in the world. But some experts say there is concern that pollution left by a pulp and paper mill closed seven years ago is spilling into the lake.
(Maxim Shemetov / Reuters)
Fires caused by waste
Factory waste from the Cuyahoga River in Akron, Ohio has been cleaned up for several decades until the waterway no longer catches fire, as it did 13 times in 1969. The river empties into Lake Erie .
(Megan Jelinger / Reuters)
Art highlights the impact of climate change
This portrait of a young Ethiopian carrying water was etched in the sand of Whitby Beach, England, to symbolize climate change and drought. The portrait, seen here on March 15, was intended to be temporary. The rising tide soon took him away.
(Nadiya Hussain / Reuters)