Dhaka WASA: Ensure safe water, not price hike

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Questions have been raised over the logic behind the Dhaka WASA's decision of raising water tariff by 10 per cent from 1 July.

WASA authorities have set Tk 16.70 per 1,000 litres from Tk 15.18 per 1,000 litres for residential customers and for commercial customers, it will be Tk 46.20 per 1,000 litres from the existing price of Tk 42 per 1,000 litres.

The Dhaka WASA has cited section 22 of the Dhaka WASA Act 1996 in increasing the price.

According to the circular, the revised price will also be effective for all kinds of municipal (water and sewerage) bills including holdings without metre, deep tube-wells and under-construction buildings.

As per the law, Dhaka WASA can raise water tariff by 5 per cent annually. But if the hike is over 5 per cent, permission has to be taken from the local government ministry. They have taken that permission too. But they have not taken permission from the board of directors, which they are supposed to do.

Dhaka WASA Board member and Bangladesh Federal Union of Journalists secretary general Deep Azad said, "There has not been any discussion in the WASA board to raise water price. I have not got any explanation as to how this has happened. I would seek an explanation in the next meeting of the board."

If the policy decision like raising tariff of water is taken ignoring the board of directors, this will give rise to questions of the relevance of the board. There is an allegation that current managing director Taqsem A Khan is running the organisation willfully. Former chairman of the board, Golam Mostafa had to leave in May 2023 as he protested against his irregularities and willfulness.

In raising tariff, Dhaka WASA cited logic that the tariff has not been increased after 2021. They initiated a move to raise tariff in 2022 but could not implement due to filing a writ at the High Court. According to the writ, WASA didn't follow the rule in raising tariffs. This time they have raised the price bypassing the board.

According to the Prothom Alo report, after the Awami League government took power in 2009, Dhaka WASA increased tariff by 16 times. But are they able to supply water as per the demand of the consumers? Is the water they are supplying safe? The answer is no.

Dhaka WASA is showing excuse of foreign loans and loss for raising water tariff. The amount of loans of WASA at different projects is Tk 190 billion. The money WASA will collect from the customers by raising water tariff, more than the amount is being wasted in the name of system loss. According to Prothom Alo information, the water Dhaka WASA lifts, 20 per cent of which does not reach to the consumer level. The financial value of the water is Tk 2.80 billion.

Although Dhaka WASA raises water tariff in phases, they are unable to supply safe water. Around 100 consumers have to boil water for drinking. So it would not be illogical to demand safe water from WASA, then think about the plan to raise tariffs. This organisation has no right to punish the people by raising tariffs instead of supplying safe water.