Mar 25, 2016 by


Welsh actor narrates A River documentary highlighting risk of river pollution from shale gas drilling in Pontrhydyfen village, Richard Burton’s birthplace

The actor Michael Sheen has given his support to an anti-fracking film opposing shale gas drilling in the Welsh village of Pontrhydyfen, Richard Burton’s birth place.

Sheen narrates the documentary A River, which is soundtracked by original music from Robert Del Naja and Euan Dickinson of Massive Attack, and warns of a pollution risk to the river Afan from potential fracking in the area.

Shown at the House of Commons on Wednesday, the film tells the story of how the river, which flows through the Afan Forest Park and converges with the river Pelenna in Pontrhydyfen, recovered from pollution caused by a century of industrial mining to become a haven for walkers, mountain bikers and fishermen. It also focuses at the current battle by locals against fracking in the area.

Sheen, who is from the nearby south west Wales village of Baglan, said the film raised “big concerns about fracking, about our environment and about the voice of people needing representation.”

“It’s about my home and its history and, most importantly, its future,” he added.

Anti-fracking action group Afan Nedd Against Fracking is fighting proposals by UK Methane to build an exploratory borehole to test for shale gas and coal bed methane at a site near Pontrhydyfen. The company’s plans were approved by Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council last week

Director Anthony Tombling Jr said his crew spent a year in and around the waterways of Cymer, Pontrhydyfen, Cwmafan and Port Talbot to make the film. The waterways, he said, “have survived so many years of pollution, and are now the giver of so much life, we owe it to future generations to protect them.

“When I hear politicians trying to sell high pressure drilling as some kind of bridging energy source, it makes no sense to me. There is so much risk for such little gain. Considering the obscene amount of water used in the fracturing process, and the vast network of uncharted mines in the area, it seems that those choosing to ignore the dangers do so for one reason: profit.”

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, who hosted the screening today, said the Afan had helped shape the local area and its community for centuries. “The story of this beautiful river, and the communities that have grown up around it, needs to be heard far and wide,” he said.

Bethan Jenkins AM, Plaid Cymru Assembly Member for South Wales West, who hosted a screening at the Welsh Assembly earlier this month, said the Pontrhydyfen community regarded proposals as: “a return to the dark old days of a polluted landscape, but this time with little or no economic benefit to the locality.”

An online petition to “declare Neath Port Talbot a frack free county” has so far received more than 1,000 signatures.

UK Methane has previously argued that it has drilled a number of similar boreholes in south Wales over the past few years and has had no problems. It said the industry could even lead to more jobs in the area.

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