12. Cherepovets City, Russia
A heavy metal Russian city, this charming metropolis processes iron and steel in such jaw-dropping quantities it’s become the second-most polluted city in the country.
According to most historians, Cherepovets means “City of Skulls”.
11. Trona, U.S.A.
Named after one mineral (trona) and established for the purposes of mining another (borax), Trona in San Bernadino County, California, numbers a population of just under 3,000.
The town is dominated by Searles Valley Minerals Inc’s soda ash processing plant and the only dirt football field in the States outside Alaska.
10. Dhaka, Bangladesh
The second-worst city in the world to live in according to a new report (just behind Damascus), Dhaka fights an endless battle against overpopulation and pollution.
9. Youngstown, Ohio, U.S.A.
Youngstown fell victim to the collapse of the steel industry in the ’70s, when mills shut up shop and scrapyards like the one above took their place.
The city has experienced net migration of residents for two decades and suffered a 60% drop in population since 1960.
There are signs of green shots in Youngstown, however. A new factory making tube goods opened a few years back and Forbes named the city the fourth best in the U.S. for raising a family.
8. Minqin County, China
This corner of northwest China is slowly finding itself swallowed by drifting sands from the nearby Tengger and Badain Jaran deserts, with towns and farms gradually losing water supplies and succumbing to the onslaught.
7. Oymyakon, Russia
With temperatures below freezing from September to May, and needles known to point to -96°F, this place is cold. Lost among endless snow in the Siberian wilderness of Yakutia it’s designated as an area of continuous permafrost. Which means it’s permanently frozen.
6. Makoko, Lagos, Nigeria
Lagos (pictured) is a bleak city, but its floating slum, Makoko, is a wet maze of ramshackle shacks, polluted and oily waters, and all kinds of suspect flotsam and jetsam under threat of eradication from the Nigerian government.
5. West Point, Monrovia, Liberia
A spot in which 75,000 crowded residents struggle to survive amidst rampant cholera, drug abuse ,and crime on a peninsula that is slowly slipping into the sea.
4. Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
The Economist deems it one of the worst spots in the world to live in, but 300,000 people have no choice, enduring extreme poverty and unsanitary conditions.
3. Pripyat, Ukraine
Thanks to the notorious nearby Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, Pripyat has stood deserted for nearly three decades. It will be safe to live in again in about 900 years.
You can now take tours of the area, which offer the chance to reflect on our nuclear age (in between several tests for radiation).
2. La Rinconada, Peru
An isolated gold-mining town perched 5,000 metres up in the Andes, La Rinconada is a rubbish-strewn and icy cold spot, where the air is as thin as the police presence on the ground.
1. Norilsk, Russia
Famous for its metal mining, extreme low temperatures, and minimal daylight (around 77 minutes per day in November), Norilsk isn’t Disneyland.
Home to a handful of notorious Gulag labour camps during the 1930s and ’40s, it’s since attracted a population of around 130,000 who mine nickel, copper, platinum, and coal in one of the top 10 most polluted places on Earth.