A few weeks ago, on October 20th, we watched Welsh Conservative MPs stick their head in the metaphorical riverbed and ignore the issue of river pollution.

The Lords Amendment 45 to the Environment Bill would have placed a legal duty on water companies in Wales and England “to make improvements to their sewerage systems and demonstrate progressive reductions in the harm caused by discharges of untreated sewage.”

The Amendment was rejected after 265 Conservative MPs voted against it, including ten Welsh Conservative MPs. While some Conservative MPs rebelled, leading to a partial policy U-turn, to those of us who care about Wales and her rivers, it was horrifying to watch MPs vote to actively pollute our rivers.

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The Environment Bill contains some measures to protect Britain’s waterways from sewage, including a new duty directly on water companies to publish information within one hour on the operation of storm overflows. It also obliges water companies to monitor the water quality upstream and downstream of storm overflows and sewage disposal works.

Recent figures by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water found that across Wales as a whole, raw sewage was dumped into Welsh rivers more than 100,000 times last year, for almost 900,000 hours.

It is utterly unbelievable that ten Welsh Conservative MPs would vote against this much-needed piece of legislation, while the remaining three did not even register a vote.

The evidence is clear, with fewer than half of Welsh rivers meeting good ecological status, our rivers, and the life inside of them, are dying. This is in a large part down to raw sewage being dumped into them, alongside the ocean and even some lakes.

Welsh waterways belong to us all and it is disrespectful that some water companies continue to treat them like open sewers. This Bill could have seen the tide turn against this practice and I feel the devastation of environmental groups that the Conservatives have treated this issue with a lack of seriousness.

The National Wales: The Cog Moors Wastewater Treatment Works in the Vale of GlamorganThe Cog Moors Wastewater Treatment Works in the Vale of Glamorgan

Wales’ waterways are integral to our history, biodiversity and social life. Whether it is remembering those who came before us who traded on our canals, to our river ecosystems who are home to exciting organisms or a place to relax and take care of our mental health.

Yesterday, the bill was back in the House of Commons for MPs to consider amendments. The Conservatives have been diluting the content of the bill but here in Wales we need to stand up to the limp and lacking attention paid to the environment.

Pollution does not understand devolution or borders. What can we do here in Wales? Well for a start we need to be holding every Welsh MP to account on this vote.

We also need to ensure that our Senedd, particularly our climate change ministers are not complacent.

READ MORE: Welsh Water fined £180k over Clywedog pollution incident

Our pledges and work with international partners through platforms like COP26 need to be year around, influencing everything that we do.

Welsh Labour have a long way to go to improve our environment.

We have all the tools at our disposal to create a greener Wales, in spite of what our politicians say or do.

Platitudes are of no use to those of us living on coasts that flood, running along polluted rivers or swimming in ever deteriorating lakes.

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