Everything looks so beautiful on television, on the magazine pages, on the surface. Professional golfers strolling down the lush green fairways at Augusta. Underneath, the clothing label reveals a clue to an unreported world; 'made in Indonesia', where you'll find the world's most polluted river.

Textile factories outlet pipes turn sections of the Citarum river blue, then red, the colours of our clothes. Untreated toxic dye water, but the story doesn't end there. The textile workers live in villages alongside the river, their drinking water is contaminated by heavy metals such as mercury used to dye fabrics. They are slowly killing their children and themselves with every sip. The very same coloured sport shirts that are pictured and regarded as fashionable are poisoning the Indonesian workers who make them. We need to connect with how are clothes are made not just how they look.


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  1. The Indonesian island of Java is home to the planet's most polluted river and a textile industry supplying some of the world's biggest fashion brands.

    Reporter Seyi Rhodes and director Hugo Ward expose the extraordinary amount of untreated toxic waste from the textile factories, non-degradable plastics, household rubbish, dead animals and fish and human effluent blanketing the Citarum river, which 35 million people rely on for drinking, cooking and washing.

    The team accompanies former fisherman Herman and his son as they push their boat through rubbish 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 for recycling.

    Thirty miles upstream, the river passes through Majalaya: a major industrial area and home to a booming textiles industry. Water from the Citarum pollutes the drinking wells and communal washing areas.

    One man says 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.

    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. A local doctor says around 60 per cent of local children have skin infections like impetigo as a result.

    And this isn't the only health hazard. The Unreported World team enlists local scientist Dr Sunardi to test samples from the village and the river. All the water sources are contaminated with heavy metals, including the drinking well, which has mercury levels nearly four times the recommended safe level.

    Dr Sunardi says that the villagers who drink the water - especially the children - are at risk of cancer and mental and physical health issues.

    The villagers are well aware of the problems. But more than half of the adults in this region work in textile factories, which are their only source of income. One villager says the factory he works in regularly dumps toxic waste directly into the river at night.

    Indonesia's Association of Textile Manufacturers says its 200 members on the Citarum treat their wastewater, but it accepts that hundreds more textile factories - which don't belong to their organisation - pour untreated waste into the river.

    Indonesia's Deputy Minister for the Environment, Arief Yuwomo, tells Rhodes: 'We have a few strategies in place and we hope we can reduce these problems. If factories are breaching these laws we will take enforcement action against them.'

    The government claims it has shut down a factory for illegally dumping chemical waste into the Citarum, but it wouldn't disclose any details of the incident or name the factory.

    Meanwhile, some of the villagers have decided to try to block one of the outlet pipes, which is releasing toxic waste into the river, in the hope that it floods the factory. It's a dangerous operation, but for the villagers it seems like the only way they will get their concerns noticed.