Dhaka Wasa’s tariff hike proposal draws flak

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Consumer rights activists and anti-graft experts decried such a move, which they fear would be taxing for general water consumers

At a time when Dhaka residents almost routinely complain about the falling quality of piped water supplied by the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA), the latter has proposed an astounding 80% tariff hike for the water it supplies.

Consumer rights activists and anti-graft experts decried such a move, which they fear would be taxing for general water consumers.

Talking to Dhaka Tribune about the proposal, Dhaka Wasa Managing Director Tasqem A Khan said: “It is true that we did write to the ministry asking for the tariffs to be hiked.” He, however, failed to recall how much increase in tariff was proposed.

Tasqem defended the proposal saying: “Since we are implementing many projects to ensure quality, and widening service taking long-term loans from different agencies, we have to repay them regularly. 

“In doing so, the government is subsidizing us a lot since our expenditure is expanding  compared to our income,” he maintained.

“Neither the government, nor we are in favour of subsidies. Hence, we moved for the tariff hike,” Tasqem said.

The Wasa MD said they were trying their best to achieve utmost   efficiency and reduce most of the system loss, but “higher production cost” prompted them to seek the tariff hike. 

From August 2017, the water bill per unit (1,000 litres) was set at Tk10.50 for residential users, up from Tk10. The commercial rate was fixed at Tk 33.60 against the previous amount of Tk 32.

The raise came following the addition of a 5% higher price plus VAT for water usage. 

In 2016, residential consumers saw a 22% increase in water prices. 

Asked about the latest tariff hike proposal, Consumers Association of Bangladesh Chairman Ghulam Rahman expressed his frustration, saying: “Only Wasa can answer why it sought a further tariff hike.”

“Dhaka people know about the quality of their (Wasa) service. I hope the government will not do anything that causes inconvenience to city residents,” he said.

Terming the 80% tariff hike illogical, he suggested that Wasa focus on curbing graft and waste. 

Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) Executive Director Iftekharuzaman also reacted heavily, dubbing the move as not only unacceptable, but also a torture on  consumers.

“The ministry concerned must scrap the proposal and hold a mass hearing on the Wasa law, for a permissible hike.

In a statement on Tuesday, he said: “The proposal is contradictory to the Wasa Act- 1996, which allows a maximum 5% tariff hike annually….. If cleared, the hike will take a heavy toll on low income groups.”