10 Of The Dirtiest Cities in the World

Our view of a city can be greatly influenced by how clean or dirty it is. It is one thing to have a hotel that is less than pristine, we can always move hotels, but if the city itself is dirty, it is hard to enjoy a holiday. Conversely, when a city is sparklingly clean it is a delight to be there. Add to that a healthy environmental policy and we feel good about visiting.

However, some cities suffer from severe natural disasters and poverty and little seems to impact their regeneration. Where poverty is rife, nature is unkind, and the city is struggling to survive, dirt and filth often follow, especially as populations increase and infrastructure struggles to cope.


Port Au Prince is a sprawling city comprising a large slum area on its hillsides. It suffered from an earthquake in 2010, resulting in the devastation of many buildings in the city. The city is also victim to various hurricanes, making it a dangerous place to inhabit.

The city, which is home to many factories, used to be a popular tourist destination and cruise ship stop, but that has tapered off in recent years due to trouble and lack of safety. Although there has been regeneration since the natural disasters, the city suffers from high unemployment and poverty, and many residents still live in tents or rubble.


Mexico City and its environs are home to around 26 million people, with nearly 9 million in the actual city. It is surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, and sits in the resulting bowl, making the air quality very poor. The pollution is compounded by industry and carbon emissions. There is a visible layer of smog in the city every day.

The population of the city has ballooned in recent decades and it has struggled to cope to support the influx of people. It has a reputation for being dangerous as a result of natural disasters, crime, and air pollution. There are also fears of corruption in the police and other government institutions.


The capital of Ethiopia is still part of a third world country, with some people having no access to a flushing toilet. It has a moderate crime level and Forbes found it to be the sixth dirtiest city in the world. The main reason for this finding was the lack of adequate sanitation, which means that infant mortality and child death rates are high.

Many inhabitants are living below the poverty line and there are many sex workers who are forced to work to try and feed themselves and their families. Slums and well-to-do residencies exist side by side in some parts of Addis Ababa, making it hard to avoid the dirt and poverty.


Visitors report that Mumbai is one of the dirtiest places in India and that it seems seedy and somewhat dodgy in comparison to its neighboring cities. There is immense poverty and mutilated beggars inhabit many street corners.

Although it is India’s financial capital, many Indians come to Mumbai to make money with the plan of leaving as quickly as possible. This gives them less of a sense of municipal pride and this shows in their lack of respect for the cleanliness of the city. One commentator said that Indians have more of a sense of their rights and less sense of duty, which might go some way to explain the filth that is evident in the city.


Baghdad has seen more than its fair share of troubles over the years. This has doubtless contributed to the fact that it is now a very dirty city and the river Tigris that flows through it gets dirtier by the year. Much wastewater goes untreated and this leads to dangerous pollution of water and results in illness.

There is not sufficient infrastructure to deal with the cleanliness crisis, with hospitals and even an oil refinery tipping waste into the swollen river. Locals have been forced to rely on mobile water tankers at times to avoid getting ill from the local drinking water.


The Moscow region is home to a landfill crisis, which is polluting the area with potentially toxic waste. There is little or no recycling initiative in Moscow, and the increasing landfill sites are causing problems to locals and inhabitants of nearby towns, who sometimes have to rely on gas masks to avoid pollution.

Moscow doesn’t even have a reliable source of clean drinking water, and the air pollution compounds this issue with many Muscovites dealing with lung disease and other pollution-related illnesses. The problem is exacerbated in snowy weather when roads are sanded, which increases the dirt on the streets when the snow melts.


Many Delhi inhabitants take part in the habit of chewing paan, a Betel leaf parcel that might contain tobacco, and which is used as a palate cleanser. However, this leads to unsightly red marks on many sidewalks, where paan chewers have spat out red liquid after chewing the leaf.

Visitors report never-ending seas of rubbish in Delhi, with a lingering smell of sewage and rotting food. Wandering animals are a problem, with dogs and even cows roaming the streets and sifting through the rubbish. Delhi is a very overcrowded city as well, with numerous people and vehicles vying for space, which all adds to the feeling of untidiness and claustrophobia.


Antananarivo has problems with air pollution and also water quality, which puts it on the list of dirtiest cities. Another problem is inefficient garbage disposal that increases germs and smells on the streets. Although much of Madagascar is a tourist haven, Antananarivo is full of pollution due to industrialization and also as a result of deforestation in the area, which reduces the carbon-busting oxygen levels.

The capital of Madagascar is highly populated, and its internal resources cannot cope. This increases the drain on sanitation and increases pollution and is at odds with the tropical paradise that many people view as the island of Madagascar.


Dhaka is the most densely populated city in the world and it struggles to offer adequate housing and sanitation to its inhabitants. It is common for people to urinate and even defecate in the street, and to drop litter wherever they like. Piles of litter build up and pose a huge health problem.

As the political, cultural and economic center of Bangladesh, Dhaka, attracts many rural immigrants, hence the problem of overcrowding is exacerbated. There is a lot of congestion in the city and an inefficient transportation system, leading to air pollution, among the other problems. The speeding rickshaws and cars also lead to many accidents, and begging is a huge problem in Dhaka, due to areas of extreme poverty, reminds Wikitravel.


In 2007, Linfen was declared the most polluted city in the world. There is a great deal of coal mining in the area that depreciates the air quality to the point that washing that is hung out to dry, turns black in the air. There are huge problems with respiratory disease in the city, with inhabitants breathing in ash and dust on a daily basis.

While coal remains the main source of fuel for China, Linfen and the surrounding area will continue to mine, and the air will continue to be polluted. Linfen has made efforts to improve the situation, with trucks spraying water on the streets to keep them cleaner, but it still remains a fact that life expectancy is shorter here than elsewhere in China due to lung diseases.