The price of water and electricity for the consumers of Dhaka city is increasing exponentially. However, there is a difference. In 13 years, the price of water has increased 14 times, which is almost two and a half times as much. In July 2009, the price of Dhaka WASA’s per unit (1,000 liters) water at the residential level was Tk 6.04. From 1 July, it will be Tk 15.18. On the other hand, the price of electricity has increased by 90 per cent in 11 years.
Apart from the issue of price, there are serious objections about the quality of Dhaka WASA water. The allegation of having dirt and stench in WASA water is quite old. The water is unsafe to drink. Dhaka WASA managing director Taqsem A Khan was once challenged by a resident of Jatrabari area when he claimed that WASA water was 100 per cent pure.
He went to the WASA headquarters with WASA water to get the managing director to drink that. But WASA’s managing director did not take up the challenge. This objection about WASA water is not just from that person but from all of the residents of Dhaka. As WASA water is unsuitable for drinking, the residents of Dhaka have to choose three alternative ways – to boil the tap water, to collect water from deep tube wells and to buy bottled water from the market.
However, WASA has not only hiked the price of water, it has also increased the salary and allowance of Taqsem A Khan, the managing director of the organisation, several times. When he joined WASA in October 2009, his monthly salary was Tk 120,000. In the last 12 years, his salary has increased by 421 per cent. WASA authorities have argued in favour of raising water prices, saying the cost of water production is high. The cost of production includes the salaries of the officers of the organisation and the institutional expenses.
It has been argued in favour of increasing the salary and allowances of the managing director, saying that he has improved the quality of WASA services in the last 11 years. The Board of Directors is satisfied with his contributions and achievements and has increased the salary.
While the WASA board of directors is delighted with the achievements of the MD, the ministry of local government has taken away the responsibility of managing drainage of Dhaka city and maintenance of canals from WASA due to its failure and incompetence.
WASA chairman Golam Mostafa made another ridiculous argument in favour of raising water prices. He claimed that the price of water was not increased due to the Covid infection last March. Coronavirus infection has increased in the last two months. If WASA did not raise prices in March considering the sufferings of the extremely poor and low-income people amid the coronavirus situation, there is no reason of raising the price now.
Therefore, the decision of Dhaka WASA to increase the price of water from 1 July should be withdrawn. WASA should not impose additional burden on the residents of Dhaka by increasing the price of water during this pandemic. The income of the organisation will increase several times more if the irregularities and waste is stopped than the revenue that WASA will get by increasing the price of water.