Dhaka WASA has proposed to increase water tariff by five per cent, once again, amid the coronavirus pandemic. The proposal will likely be approved at the next board meeting, slated for Tuesday.

According to the officials of WASA, if the decision to increase the price is approved at the meeting, then from next July, the residential users will have to pay Tk 15.18 per unit of water (100,00 litres) and commercial users Tk 42. The existing prices are Tk 14.46 and Tk 40 for domestic and commercial consumers respectively.

At the beginning of the pandemic in April last year, WASA increased the price of water for households by Tk 2.89 per unit. The price of water has surged for 13 times in 13 years since the Awami-League (AL) formed the government in 2009.

Although people have been raising their concerns for long over the quality of WASA’s water, the price will be increased for 14 times if the increased costs is approved at Tuesday’s meeting.

The discontent of consumers was also addressed in a research conducted by Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) in April last year. The research revealed more than one third of the consumers are dissatisfied with the service of Dhaka WASA.

Due to the poor quality of water, 93 per cent consumers treat water through various methods to make it drinkable. Among them, 91 per cent people drink boiled water.

Convener of Jurain’s council for the implementation of citizens’ rights, Mizanur Rahman, took a unique step in April 2019 to apprise the WASA authority about the poor quality of their water.

Mizanur offered the WASA managing director (MD) Taqsem A Khan a glass of sherbet made with WASA water. He stood with the glass of sherbet for a long time in front of WASA head office at Karwan Bazar to make Taqsem drink it, but could not meet the MD.

This issue was widely discussed in the media, including the social media.

At a meeting held to exchange views in the capital's Islambagh, the Dhaka WASA MD Taqsem A Khan suggested that consumers drink WASA water after boiling it for 10 minutes.

He said that the water they supply is drinkable water, not drinking water. Drinkable water can be drunk, but subject to conditions.

Prothom Alo could not reach to the WASA MD Taqsem A Khan for comment regarding the matter. Later, the WASA deputy chief public information officer Mostafa Tarek was asked about the matter over the phone. However, he was unwilling to comment.

According to the WASA, there is a big gap between the production costs and the selling price of water. At present, about Tk 25 is being spent for every 1000 litres of water produced. And it has to be sold at Tk 14. 46. Accordingly, WASA thinks that the price of water needs to be increased by five per cent.

According to Section 22 (2) of the WASA Act 1996, WASA can increase the price of water by not more than five per cent. If the price of water is increased at 5 per cent, it can be adjusted with the existing price.

Professor M Shamsul Alam, an advisor of the Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB), told Prothom Alo that increasing water price amid this predicament is inhuman. The cost that WASA is calculating for water production is not acceptable. Let them hold a public hearing to bring transparency to their calculations, he said, adding, that then the real picture of production and expenditure will emerge.

M Shamsul Alam said many people have lost their jobs. Many businesses are not doing well. In such circumstance, increasing the price of water is unfortunate.