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Welsh Government Calls On Westminster To Help Fund Safety Of Coal Tips

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Welsh

Welsh government calls on Westminster to help fund safety of coal tips

Every time it rains heavily, Cllr Robert Bevan’s phone starts ringing and his social media feed is busy with people worried the coal tip that looms above the village of Tylorstown in south Wales might be in danger of slipping.

“They’re asking me: ‘Rob, is it going to happen again?’ The anxiety, the anguish is terrible,” said Bevan. “While the tip is there, even if you’ve got the best engineers working on it, you can never be sure it’s 100% safe. The tips are an albatross around our necks.”

The Welsh government is on Tuesday spelling out its requests of the UK government in this autumn’s spending review. Top of the list is a call for Boris Johnson’s administration to share responsibility for the tips and allocate long-term funding to make them safe.

It says that an estimated 40% of all UK coal tips are in Wales and about one in seven of these are classed as high risk. The Labour-controlled Welsh government argues that extreme weather caused by the climate crisis is making many of the tips unstable and believes at least £500m to £600m will be needed over the next 10 to 15 years to make them safe.

A tip above Tylorstown in Rhondda Cynon Taf partly collapsed during the storms of February last year, sending 60,000 tonnes of waste tumbling into the river close to the village’s leisure centre. It blocked part of the river valley, broke a foul sewer and wrecked a footpath and cycle path. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

After lobbying by the Welsh government, the local council and “ranting” – his word – from the Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, the UK government agreed to contribute £2.5m to a clear-up, a fraction of the estimated £18m the remediation project is costing.

“That feels measly,” said Bevan, a former mine electrician. He argued that the coal that was taken out of the valleys fuelled the whole of the UK. “The legacy of mining is still here. We’re living with it every day,” he said

Bevan said the memory of the 1966 Aberfan disaster, in which 144 people, 116 of them children, died when a junior school was engulfed in a black avalanche of slurry, coal waste and tailings from a tip, springs to mind whenever the subject is brought up. “It’s at the back of your mind when the rains come.”

This week – 20 months after the slip – workers continue to shore it up. Teams, some of them using ropes, clambered over the steep tip. Diggers and dumper trucks beavered away.

Dorothy Lewis, 80, who has run the Tylorstown village shop for half a century, said for as long as she could remember, people had debated what to do about the tips. “They used to talk about taking them down and using the material to build roads,” she said. “The problem is that it costs so much money.”

Philip Hathway, 72, a retired design engineer, paused to gaze up at the tip as he turned up for a gym session at the leisure centre. “I was a teenager when Aberfan happened. There’s still an anxiety from that all these years later.” He believes the UK government should dip into its pockets. “The whole of the UK benefited from coal,” he said.

After the Tylorstown landslip, the Welsh and UK governments set up the coal tip safety taskforce. It identified 2,144 coal tips in Wales, predominately in the south Wales valleys.

Coal tip safety in Wales is a devolved issue but the government argues the tips are a legacy of the country’s industrial history, which predates devolution.

The Welsh finance and local government minister, Rebecca Evans, is calling on the chancellor of the exchequer, Rishi Sunak to “share responsibility” and allocate funding to deal with the “pre-devolution legacy” of mining in Wales.

She said: “Climate impacts are increasing the risks disused coal tips pose to our communities. The UK government has a legal and moral responsibility to work with the Welsh government to address this issue.”

Kira Philpott’s house has a view across to the Tylorstown tip site. “It’s a bit of a mess, isn’t it?” she said, looking across the black scar in the green hill.

She lives nearby, beneath another tip. “Every time it rains hard you look up there and wonder,” she said. “If that came down we’d all really be in trouble here. We wouldn’t have a chance.”

A UK government spokesperson said: “In December 2020, to help with the unforeseen impact of Storm Dennis, we provided £31m of additional funding to the Welsh government, of which £9m was to repair vulnerable coal tips.

“Ultimately, however, the management of coal tips in Wales is a devolved matter and therefore not one the UK government would expect to provide additional funding for.”

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

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UN chief warns of ‘catastrophe’ from global food shortage

The head of the United Nations warned Friday that the world faces “catastrophe” because of the growing shortage of food around the globe.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the war in Ukraine has added to the disruptions caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce an “unprecedented global hunger crisis” already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of rich and developing countries gathered in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

Guterres noted that harvests across Asia, Africa and the Americas will take a hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access issues could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a catastrophe.”

Guterres said U.N. negotiators were working on a deal that would enable Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions.

He also called for debt relief for poor countries to help keep their economies afloat and for the private sector to help stabilize global food markets.

The Berlin meeting’s host, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were to blame for food shortages was “completely untenable.”

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

She echoed Guterres’ comments that several factors underlie the growing hunger crisis around the world.

“But it was Russia’s war of attack against Ukraine that turned a wave into a tsunami,” Baerbock said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that Russia has no excuse for holding back vital goods from world markets.

“The sanctions that we’ve imposed on Russia collectively and with many other countries exempt food, exempt food products, exempt fertilizers, exempt insurers, exempt shippers,” he said.

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

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Bandits release Zamfara wedding guests after payment of ransom

Local and federal highways in the North-west have become vulnerable as bandits continue to ambush and abduct travellers.

The gunmen who abducted 29 people returning to Zamfara State from Sokoto State where they had gone to attend the wedding of colleagues have released them after the payment of an unspecified ransom.

The victims, who were mostly dealers of mobile phones and phone accessories at Bebeji Communication Market (Bebeji Plaza) in Gusau, the capital of Zamfara State were abducted in Sokoto 13 days ago.

Secretary of the GSM Dealers Association in the state, Ashiru Zurmi, confirmed the release of the victims but didn’t give details.

One of the victims reportedly died in captivity.

Though the amount paid as ransom to secure the release of the hostages has not been revealed, Abdullahi Lawal, whose brother was among those abducted, said their relatives were asked to make donations. He said his family raised N33,000 while the phone sellers’ association “provided the remaining money.”

“Every family was told to gather N400,000 while the members of the plaza and their colleagues in the state provided the remaining money. Some family members were able to raise the money in full, but we couldn’t. I took the money to the plaza and I was told that they were still negotiating with the bandits” he said.

He said he didn’t know how much was given to the bandits “but I’m happy that my brother is okay,” he said.

From N5m to N700,000

A phone accessories seller, Sharhabilu Muhammad, told PREMIUM TIMES over the phone that the officials of the phone dealers association negotiated with the bandits to reduce the ransom they originally demanded to release the captives.

“You know that the initial money they said was N5m for each of the captives but our officials kept negotiating with them (bandits) until they reduced the money to N700k,” he said.

When asked about the person who reportedly died in captivity, Mr Muhammed said his identity has not been revealed.

“We don’t know because even the bandits didn’t tell but we’ll surely find out when they (captives) arrive at Gusau tonight,” he added.

The police command spokesman, Mohammed Shehu, didn’t respond to calls and SMS sent to him on the development.

Backstory

PREMIUM TIMES reported that the wedding guests were abducted when bandits opened fire on the two buses they were travelling in a few kilometres after Bimasa in the Dogon Awo junction, Sokoto State.

They were returning from Tambuwal town in Sokoto State where they had attended the wedding of a colleague, Jamil Umar.

The captives were travelling on a Toyota Coaster bus belonging to the Universal Basic Education Commission UBEC and another bus owned by Gusau Local Government.

The bandits had demanded a ransom of N145 million to release the 29 hostages.

Bandits have been terrorising North-west states and a part of North-central Nigeria, killing and displacing hundreds of people and rustling domestic animals.

Travelling on federal and local highways is becoming dangerous as bandits block roads, abduct and kill motorists.

Major federal highways including Abuja-Kaduna, Gusau-Sokoto-Birnin Kebbi, and Birnin Gwari-Kaduna have become travellers’ nightmares with attacks and abduction or killing of travellers becoming a daily occurrence.

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

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Reps demand review of public officers’ salaries, allowances

A motion seeking the intervention of the House of Representatives in the conflict between the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Tanko Muhammad, and Justices of the Supreme Court, over issues bordering on welfare and working conditions suffered a setback on Thursday.

While the House called for a general review of salaries and allowances of all political office holders and public servants, the members were divided over which committees should handle the task.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Judiciary, Onofiok Luke, had moved a motion to seek the intervention of the chamber in the crisis rocking the apex court and better welfare package for judicial officers across the courts.

Luke, who moved the motion titled, ‘Need to Address the Deteriorating Working Conditions of Judicial Officers,’ prayed the House to urge the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission to upwardly review the remuneration of judicial officers in line with present economic realities.

The lawmaker prayed the House to urge the Federal Government to increase the budgetary allocation of the judiciary for the upcoming fiscal year and provide special intervention funds for the development of the arm

He further prayed the House to mandate the Committee on Judiciary to ensure compliance and report back within six weeks for further legislative action.

While the lawmakers were making amendments to the prayers, the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, called for an upward review of the welfare package of all public office holders.

Wase, who stated that he appreciated the memo from the Justices to the CJN, noted that only the RMAFC had the responsibility to review remuneration of government officials.

The Deputy Speaker made reference to a part of the motion that read, ‘The remuneration of judicial officers was last reviewed in 2008 by the RMAFC when the official exchange rate was N117.74 to $1, whereas the naira has considerably depreciated.’

Wase partly said, “I think this particular element does not affect just judicial officers, maybe because they cried out now. I don’t think it is right that we have to wait every time until people write letters of complaints and there is protest before we begin to do the right thing.”

Rephrasing Wase’s proposed amendment, Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, said: “The DSP’s amendment is that we should not isolate the Judiciary and all those enumerated constitutional bodies and public office holders. They should be reviewed; a comprehensive review based on all the things that Hon Luke said – the exchange rates and this and that.”

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