Dhaka WASA: Supply fresh water before raising the price

Dhaka WASA started initiatives to raise the price of water just a day after the local government minister Tajul Islam remarked that water should not be provided to the rich in Dhaka with subsidies.

A Prothom Alo report said that the service provider wants to fix the water prices at five different rates apparently based on the consumers’ income. A technical survey conducted by the Dhaka WASA has proposed to raise the water price from 24 to 147 per cent compared to the current price. If this proposal is implemented, the cost will increase for all categories of customers, from lower middle to upper class.

The minister informed the media that Dhaka WASA spends Tk 26-30 for the production of 1,000 litres of water and sells the amount at Tk 15. But how much of the claim that the production cost of 1,000 litres of water is Tk 26-30 based on information? There is a huge difference between the amounts provided by Dhaka WASA officials and the actual expenditure.

Cost of producing purified water from the surface sources is Tk 25. But currently 70 per cent of the water supplied by Dhaka WASA is from deep tube wells or underground sources, which is much less costly.

Currently, the residential consumers of Dhaka WASA pay Tk 15.18 for 1,000 litres of water, irrespective of their income level. The price is Tk 42 for the same amount of water for commercial customers.

According to Dhaka WASA’s proposal, the customers have been divided into five categories - upper class, upper middle class, middle class, lower middle class and lower class people, who will have to pay five types of prices. Those who live in flats of more than 2,500 sqf belong to the upper class; those living in 1,500 to 2,500 sqf flats are upper middle class; those residing in flats of 1,000-1,500 sqf have been classified as middle class and those staying in below 1,000 sqf flats are lower middle class people.

There is no question about this stratification by the WASA right now. In fact this is a good initiative that the service provider wants to charge the people according to their income. But Dhaka WASA needs to ensure the supply of fresh water before raising the price. The water that this organisation is supplying to the Dhaka residents cannot be drunk without boiling. Apart from this, there are also complaints of dirt and bad smell in water in many areas.

Since Taqsem A. Khan’s taking charge as managing director of Dhaka WASA, the service quality of this organisation worsened, but his salary and allowances increased. The government may consider him as essential to Dhaka WASA, but nobody seems to care whether the residents of Dhaka are getting clean water or not. The rich are drinking bottled water but the low-income people have no alternatives to boil water to drink it.

After the new government took over, prices of several essential commodities, including rice, have spiked. But people’s income has not increased. In this situation, if the price of water is increased, it will be a severe blow to them. There was a proposal to increase the price of gas used in residences. But the Minister of State for Energy and Power, Nasrul Hamid, said that gas prices are not increasing now.

We hope that the minister responsible for Dhaka WASA will also take necessary measures to curb wastage and corruption of WASA without increasing the price of water at this moment. He must take steps to ensure that the residents of Dhaka get clean water.