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Is there a river near where you live? Many cities, towns, and villages are built beside rivers. Rivers provide us with water for drinking and cooking and for growing crops. Often, our rivers are waterways that can ferry us from place to place. But we also use our rivers to carry away waste to the sea. Many of these rivers are becoming polluted.


Most river pollution comes from industry. Acid rain, caused by gases from factory chimneys, falls into lakes and streams. Chemical waste from factories and warm water from power stations may be pumped straight into the river. Some waste chemicals are poisonous to the plants and animals of the river, and warm water kills animals living at low temperatures. Nitrates, often found in fertilizers, may drain through the soil and pollute streams and rivers.
Human waste, called sewage, is sometimes poured into the river. Sewage, together with other waste, decays in the water, using up valuable oxygen. Fish and other river life need oxygen to breathe. Some rivers are now so starved of oxygen that no plants or animals can survive in them. Modern sewage treatment plants help reduce the problem.


River pollution is a serious problem in some countries. People bathe and wash in the rivers. Animals drink water from the rivers. Polluted water contains bacteria, chemicals, or other substances that can cause illness or death.
Many efforts are being made to save our rivers, bays, and lakes. And some have been saved. If we find better ways to get rid of sewage and cut down industrial waste, we may be able to save the life in other lakes and rivers and keep the water clean.


This river is clean when it starts its journey to the sea. Many plants and fish live in the water.
1. Rain clouds carry acid rain from the towns on the other side of the mountains. The acid rain falls in the streams that feed the river.
2. The river passes a farm where chemicals are washed into it by the rain.
3. Farther on, the river passes a town where it is polluted with chemicals from factories.
4. Then sewage enters the river and decays. Foam comes from detergents which the sewage system has been unable to break down.
5. By this time, all the fish have been poisoned. There are no plants on the river bank either.
6. People see that the river is a dump and throw even more garbage into it.
7. By the time the water reaches the sea, it’s in a terrible mess!

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