Members of the board of Dhaka WASA lastly decided to raise water price by 5 per cent at a meeting on 6 July unanimously considering the current inflation in the country. At that time, Dhaka WASA managing director (MD) Taqsem A Khan favoured a 20 per cent hike in water price on ground of the rising production and operation cost.

As per law, the Dhaka WASA can raise water price by 5 per cent annually and that requires an approval of its board. In case of a hike over 5 per cent, the agency needs a clearance of the Local Government Division.

On 4 August, the Dhaka WASA authorities sent a letter to the secretary of Local Government Division, seeking the ministry’s approval on raising water price to Tk 19 for residential and Tk 50 for commercial uses.

The letter states operation cost and amount of foreign debt instalment, known as debt service liability (DSL), has increased, so it has been difficult for Dhaka WASA to operate and maintain as well to pay DSL with the existing price of water. A special price hike of water is essential to pay the debt and bear the expenses.

The Dhaka WASA authorities, however, proposed to keep the price of water unchanged for the people of the low-income community (LIC) in slum areas.

Earlier on 27 July, Chattogram WASA increased water price by 38 per cent for residential and 19 per cent for commercial uses, bringing the payment of foreign debt instalment to the fore.

In reply to why the management proposed a future hike in water price despite the board fixed a 5 per cent rise, Dhaka WASA board chairman Golam Mostafa told Prothom Alo over mobile phone on Wednesday night that the WASA MD Taqsem A Khan went to the government for a further rise in water price and now the government will decide.

However, if water price increase more, pressure will rise on the people; on the other hand, the government will face an embarrassing situation because of additional hike. Considering these two reasons, the WASA board approved a 5 per cent raise, he added.

People have been bearing the burnt of gradual rise in essential price for several months. Many people are also suffering from economic crisis amidst coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the Dhaka WASA increased water price for residential and commercial uses twice in last two years. The agency also raised water price 15 times in last 14 years since Awami League government took the office in 2009.

Dhaka WASA MD Taqsem A Khan could not be reached for a comment.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, deputy chief public information officer of Dhaka WASA AM Mostafa Tarek said he is not aware of the matter of increasing water price over proposed 5 per cent.

Currently, foreign debt loan of Dhaka WASA’s seven projects has reached about Tk 210 billion and the agency spends a huge amount to pay capital and interest on its debts.

The letter states Dhaka WASA paid Tk 2.01 billion in capital and interest in 2017-18 fiscal and the amount increased to Tk 4 billion in 2021-22 fiscal.

Regarding the water price hike, additional secretary (water supply) local government Md Khairul Islam told Prothom Alo that they will look into the proposal of Dhaka WASA weather it is logical or not and the decision will be taken from the top level of the government.

No more than 20 per cent of water produced by Dhaka WASA daily reaches its consumers and the agency spends Tk 2.4 billion for this system loss or technical waste. If this waste could be reduced, Dhaka WASA did not need to increase water price every year. Experts believe the Dhaka WASA authorities are trying to put the liability of their mismanagement and irregularities on the people’s shoulder.

The Dhaka WASA does not have a service mindset, executive director of urban planners’ organisation Institute for Planners and Development professor Adil Mohammed Khan observed.

He told Prothom Alo, their (Dhaka WASA) motives are personal gain through big projects and making profit through raising water price. Why the people will bear the responsibility of Dhaka WASA’s incapacity? government should seek accountability from them.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo Bengla and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna