Port city residents are aggrieved over the decision of Chittagong Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (CWasa) to increase household water bills by five percent from February 1.
They said without taking proper initiative to reduce system loss and corruption, CWasa decided to increase the cost, which would adversely impact port city dwellers.
The decision was taken at a CWasa board meeting on Wednesday, said its officials. They said currently Tk 9.42 is being charged for 1,000 litres of water for household purposes .
According to port city residents, around 80 percent people live in rented houses and they would have to suffer as the homeowners would increase rents, citing the price hike.
Moreover, they alleged that though CWasa could not supply water as per demand in many areas, it's increasing the price instead of taking proper initiative to address the crisis.
CWasa can supply 34 crore litres of water per day against the demand of 50 crore litres, said officials.
Meanwhile, sources in CWasa said the system loss of water has increased from 15 percent to over 21 percent due to “illegal connections” and pipe leaks over the last two years.
In addition, some parts of Halishahar, Patenga, Bakalia, Chandgaon, Oxygen, Bayezid Bostami, Pahartoli, Akbar Shah and Bahaddarhat areas are still out of CWasa coverage, said officials.
“We have been living in Naya Bazar since 1990s. Till now, we have never gotten uninterrupted water supply from CWasa. On top of that, they are increasing the price…,” said Shirin Akter, a resident.
SM Nazer Hossain, vice president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh, Chattogram, said the hike is “illogical” and “unacceptable”.
“CWasa took the decision without any dialogue with the stakeholders… A public hearing should be held before taking such decisions,” he said. Low and middle income groups would be the worst sufferers, he said, adding that the homeowners may increase the rent as well.
“If CWasa can address its system loss issue properly, it won't need to increase the supply price,” he said.
Terming the hike irrational, Prof Sikandar Khan, vice chancellor of East Delta University, said Wasa must justify the reasons for taking such initiative. “If they can improve their services, only then the rate should be increased,” he said.
Dr Mahfuzur Rahman, chairman of Bangladesher Mukti Sangram O Muktijuddho Gobeshona Kendro, said, “Water is a basic need of people and it should be supplied at the lowest possible price.”
Contacted, AKM Fazlullah, managing director of CWasa, said they were compelled to increase the rate as the production and maintenance cost have increased.
“Our production cost is Tk 14 per thousand litres and we supply the same to people at Tk 9.42 at present,” he said. “We have taken loans from foreign agencies, which we will have to pay with interest.”
“Moreover, the rate of electricity and chemicals has increased; we have no other alternatives but to increase the price,” he said.
Regarding system loss, Fazlullah said, it has increased recently due to leaks in pipes as a result of some ongoing projects.
“System loss is a common phenomenon… system loss in Dhaka is over 22 percent while that in Karachi is 40 percent. It is also over 25 percent in India and Singapore,” he claimed.
He said they tried to reduce the system loss but they need more time as most pipes are very old. A project is underway to replace the pipes, which will be completed by 2020, he added.