Distributive policy

Flawed policy makes ordinary people pay the price

The perennial water crisis in the capital took on a new dimension after the government opted for power cuts by zone and the recent increase in fuel oil prices. Residents of many areas such as Mohakhali, Mirpur, Gulshan, Badda and Jatrabari have been reporting severe water shortages over the past few days which have escalated amid the crippling power shortage. Residents of Mirpur say they have not received water from the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority since July 30. A number of families in Jatrabari complain that they get water once a day and the little water they get is not safe to drink. Several landlords in Mirpur sent their families to a village house as they found it too much to handle with frequent power cuts and insufficient water supply. A photograph New Age released on Sunday shows two children driving home in a rickshaw with containers of drinking water from a tube well in another neighborhood. Water supply authorities regard those affected as ‘impatient’ and do not seem to recognize the seriousness as they insist the problem persists in only a few areas. The authorities, meanwhile, cannot cope with the disruption of supply by using alternative energy sources, such as generators, due to the unprecedented increase in the price of diesel.

The shortage of water supply is the result of faulty policies and widespread corruption in the public service sectors. While authorities argue that the crisis is region-specific and temporary, experts attribute the situation to groundwater depletion, lack of maintenance of deep tube wells and unplanned urbanization. The electricity shortage which intensified the water shortage in the city is also the result of an unbalanced energy policy. The government has unevenly invested in power generation without strengthening the distribution network and has created a situation where a large share of power capacity remains unused and a large part of the cost is spent on paying for capacity and import. A growing dependence on gas imports, the reluctance to phase out quick-hire plants, and the extremely slow pace of transition to renewables have contributed to the crisis in the power sector and the reported disruption of water supply is the consequence of negligent policies. It is shocking that the government, instead of acknowledging its failure in public services, is set to raise the price of water next month and is considering another round of petrol price increases. Water and electricity tariffs have increased several times in recent years, but higher prices could not guarantee an uninterrupted supply.

Ordinary people have already struggled to make ends meet, with kitchen markets behaving erratically and the high prices of almost all daily necessities showing no signs of slowing down. It is time for the government to realize its responsibility, which includes ensuring an uninterrupted supply of water and electricity. In such a situation, the water supply authorities should immediately address the water shortage and organize water tankers, if necessary, at subsidized rates.