City dwellers protest water price hike
Golam Mostafa Jibon:Agitation is prevailing among the city dwellers over the decision of Dhaka WASA’s water tariff hiking by at least 20 percent instead of ensuring supply of quality water at low cost.
Meanwhile, many socio-cultural organizations including Bangladesh Sadharon Nagorik Samaj staged several demonstrations in the capital demanding cancellation of the decision and removal of the WASA managing director Taqsem-a-Khan for his unbridled corruption and ‘failure’ to ensure supply of quality water even after hiking tariff again and again.
Terming the decision as an imprudent one and brunt of corruption, civil society members and leaders of several organizations said that,the price of water supplied by Dhaka WASA for residential and commercial use hasbeen increased three times in the last 13 years since the Awami League returned to the power in 2009. But, the state owned organization cannot ensure supply of odorless and safe drinking water to the city dwellers so far. In addition, the organization has merged with corruption, irregularities and mismanagement.
In this circumstance, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority has proposed the government to increase water tariffs by at least 20 percent in order to reduce the subsidy and adjust the production costs despite the Corona pandemic.
But,it is very painful that,there is no sign of rising income of the general people during the pandemic. In addition, the income of most people has declined abnormally due to lack of jobs.Now, city dwellers don’t want to bear the brunt of Dhaka WASA’s corruption and irregularities.
A few days ago, Chattogram and Rajshahi WASA also announced to increase the water tariffs similarly.
Dhaka WASA has increased the price of its water for 14 times in the last 13 years. Its revenue has also been tripled in this period. But, sufferings of the city dwellers did not reduce at all, many complained.
According to the sources, Dhaka WASA used to charge Tk 5.75 per unit (one thousand liters) of water for residential use in 2009. Since then, Dhaka WASA has increased the price of water by 5 percent every year. At present, residential customers have to pay Tk 15.18per unit of water, while commercial customers to Tk 42 per unit. In addition, customers in areas where WASA has a sewerage line have to pay double the price. With this, 15 percent more VAT has to be paid. Although, Dhaka WASA has increased the price of water 14 times in the last 13 years since 2009, it has not yet been able to supply odorless water to all areas, many residents said.
In 2016, the price of water increased twice. In 2017, at least Tk 10.50 was chargedagainst Tk 10 for residential use and Tk 33.60instead ofTk 32 for commercial use.
In 2018, residential rate was increased to Tk 11.02 from Tk 10.50 and for commercial customers to Tk 35.28 from Tk 33.60. In 2019, residential pricerose to Tk 11.56 from Tk 11.02 and commercial price rose to Tk 37.04 from Tk 35.28.
The price was increased by 25 percent once again in 2020. The price of water for the residential customers was increased to Tk 14.46 from Tk 11.57 in a jump, while the price for commercial customers was increased to Tk 40 from Tk 37.04.
Residential rate has been increased to Tk 15.18 from Tk 14.46 since July last year (2021), while the commercial rate has been increased to Tk 42 from Tk 40.
Due to this, the revenue income of Dhaka WASA has increased at a significant rate.
In 2009, WASA’s revenue was Tk 440 crore. The revenue target for the current financial year has been set at Tk 1800 crore, sources said.
Abdul Wahed, a resident of Mugda area said,”My water bill for Decemberwas Tk1032. In addition, another amount of Tk 1,032 was added with itascharge for sewerage. With it, another amount of Tk 310 was attached as 15 percent VAT. Thus, the total bill stood at Tk 2,374.”
Ramzan Ali, another resident of the same area said,”We are forced to pay the same amount of money as sewerage bill with the water bill. But, residents of many posh areas do not have to pay such bill. It is one kind of discrimination and oppression on us.”
He further said, “Though, we are forced to pay additional money as water bill, we don’t get pure and safe water. We use smelly and dirty water regularly. Sometimes, we are compelled to drink bottle water after purchasing from local market due to bad smell of supplied water. If guests come from outside of Dhaka, they cannot drink this water even after boiling.”
“Apart from this, even though the water bill is paid every month, People often have to buy water from the ATM boothsof WASA for good water. As a result, consumers have to pay twice as much for water,” he added.
WASA authorities said, the price of water was increased several times with a view to adjust the prices with production and distribution costs.
AKM Shahid Uddin, Director (Technical) of Dhaka WASA said, “It is not price hike, wecall it price adjustment.The cost of water production increases every year. There is an opportunity to adjust that cost according to the law. To adjust inflation, the WASA Board adjusts the price of water and sewerage at the rate of 5 percent per annum as per Section 22 of the WASA Act-1996.”
He also said,Tk 22 to Tk 28 is spent to produce per unit of water, but water is being sold to the residential customers at a lower price.
Replying to a query, he said, “The water of Shitalakshya river turns into black like tar (Alkatra) during the winter season. Huge ammonia comes with the water, while generates from river. We supply the water to the customers after purifying at the treatment plant. We don’t agree to take responsibility of polluting the river water by throwing residential and industrial wastes.”
Taqsem-a-Khan, Managing Director of Dhaka WASA said,”A plan has been taken to fix the prices of water separately in the capital based on the area. But, it is currently at the study stage. WaterAid, an organization,was given responsibility of carrying the study in this regard.”
Consumers Association of Bangladesh president Ghulam Rahman told The Daily Industry that, “Dhaka WASA is increasing water tariffs again and again without ensuring better supply of water. People are being forced to pay additional money, but they are not getting usable water at all. The culture should stop now.”
Jahangirnagar University economics department professor Anu Muhammad said, “Corruption, irregularities and mismanagement have now become a regular phenomenon in Dhaka WASA. But, consumers should not bear the brunt of WASA’s corruption. So, the decision to price hike of water must be cancelled.”
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