A day after electricity prices were raised, Wasa has increased water tariffs for residential and commercial uses in Dhaka for the second time in a span of seven months, dealing a double blow to consumers.
In a circular issued yesterday, the Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) raised the price per unit (1,000 litre of water) to Tk 14.46 from Tk 11.57 for residential use, a hike of 24.97 percent.
Commercial users, meanwhile, will have to pay Tk 40 for each unit instead of Tk 37.04, a 7.99 percent hike.
The new rates will come into effect from April 1, according to the circular.
The state-run water supply authority in the circular said it raised the tariffs to adjust production and operational costs in line with retail prices and increased electricity and gas prices.
"We have hiked the tariff to adjust the rise in operational costs. Besides, we want to reduce the burden of loan Wasa took to implement different projects," said Taqsem A Khan, managing director of Dhaka Wasa.
"There will be no negative impact on the consumers given the extent of the increases," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
Wasa hiked prices by five percent in September last year, citing inflation. According to Section 23 of the Wasa Act-1996, the Wasa board can hike prices by five percent annually.
On February 26, the Local Government Department issued an order approving the tariff hikes proposed by Wasa.
The latest move has drawn flak from city dwellers, with some residents and experts saying hikes in water prices would be a further burden on people as it comes just after the hike in power tariffs.
They termed the Wasa move illogical as residents of many neighbourhoods have been living with foul-smelling tap water and that people of different areas face severe water crisis during summer.
"The tap water we are getting is stinky. Now we have to pay more for this? Wasa must ensure safe water before prices are hiked," said Mohammad Sabuj, a resident of Sobhanbagh, in his reaction to the Wasa move.
On Thursday, the energy regulator increased the retail electricity prices by 5.3 percent from the current rate. Each unit of electricity will be Tk 7.13, announced Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission.
Consumers rights activists say the hikes in the utility services will affect the living standards of many city residents, especially those from the middle- and limited-income brackets, since their income has not increased in line with the high cost of living.
Already hit hard by soaring prices of essentials, this new rise in water tariffs would lead to a hike in house rents, they said.
From the costs for education and medical treatment to personal care products -- prices of everything has continued to increase sharply in the last several years.
"The first thing which is going to happen is the increase in the house rent," said Rakibul Islam, an employee of a private company in the capital.
"From the first day of this year, we have been getting news of price hikes. First, the prices of liquefied petroleum gas cylinder, then the electricity tariffs and now water tariffs. Where would we go?
"My salary increased by just five percent last year while my cost of living, I believe, increased two to three-fold," he added.
A recent study of Consumers Association of Bangladesh (CAB) shows the living cost in Dhaka increased by 6.5 percent last year due to the rising prices of essential commodities and services.
And the trend may continue this year as consumers have been paying more to buy daily essentials and there is no sign of a let-up in price hikes anytime soon.
CAB President Ghulam Rahman said government steps to hike prices of water, electricity and gas disadvantage the lower-and middle-income people.
"Such hike in prices of daily services will put extra financial pressure on the lower and lower middle class. ... it affect their standard of life," he said.
"Repeated hikes in the prices of gas, electricity and water will increase inflation," he warned as many city dwellers, especially lower-income people are struggling to provide for their families.
"The government is active in giving benefits to the rich, but it is putting pressure on people of the lower rungs of the social ladder," he said.
In a recent report, Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics said there was a 6.30 percent non-food inflation in January, the highest since December 2015. People living in rural areas are hit the hardest due to the spiralling prices of goods and services other than food.
Different political parties have protested the move to increase water and electricity prices.
Workers' Party of Bangladesh (WPB) said due to the increase in water and electricity prices, manufacturing industries, especially the garment industry, will face severe loss.
In a statement, WPB President Rashed Khan Menon and General Secretary Fazle Hossain Badsha said, "Factories will be shut. Economic growth will be hindered."
They also opined that the further hike in power would create an economic pressure as well as shoot up living costs.
National Committee for Protection of Oil-Gas and Mineral Resource, Electricity Sector and Ports, said the power prices have been increased as part of a "wrong government move".
The price of power is on the rise due to excessive illogical subsidies to the quick-rental power plants and the supply of gas to private sectors, instead of to state-run power generation companies, it said in a press release.
The government is protecting the interests of some local and foreign companies. As a result, the prices are going up, it said.
"Repeated increase in gas and power prices has become a burden on the country's economy. The latest rise will once again enhance manufacturing costs, house rent and prices of goods, including agricultural products, and reduce the country's competitiveness on the global market," it added.