Wednesday, 22 February 2012
Hands off our Welsh water
It is becoming increasingly apparent that water is going to be a valuable resource for the people of Wales in the years to come. It is now imperative that Plaid Cymru leads a positive national campaign to safeguard the future of Wales' water resources.
The issue was brought into sharp relief this week when the National Farmers' Union in England called for the exploitation of Wales' water for the benefit of the drought-hit south-east of England. Plaid Cymru's evidence to the UK Government's Commission on Devolution, also known as the Silk Commission, calls for the Welsh Government to be given the power to levy new taxes.
Plaid Cymru must make sure that people in Wales fully benefit from any future exploitation of Welsh resources. Water has a deep emotional resonance amongst the Welsh people. It is a crucial part of our national history and we have a lot of it. The story of Tryweryn still rings true: Wales has an abundant resource which thirsty parts of the state desire. We must play to our strengths and we should allow the export of our water - but on the condition that the people of Wales should see the benefit.
At the moment it is not possible to directly charge money for water that specifically goes to England, because in the privatised water market there aren't any national borders. However, if future changes are made to the market in line with the climate change agenda, we must make sure that Wales is in a position to benefit financially. At the moment water is not that valuable in raw monetary terms. But this could change. Any new taxes we could levy on water would be looking to the future and specifically to any new reservoirs or other pieces of infrastructure that might be developed in Wales.
The UK Government is developing a new water policy which may also involve legislation. The Welsh Government is also interested in water having recently issued a statement about its role in combating climate change. It is no coincidence that the Government of Wales Act specifically excludes the Assembly from making any laws relating to water supply. Why don't the powers-that-be want Wales to decide on our own natural resources?
These resources should belong to the Welsh people, not to corporations or to the UK Government.