We are concerned about the amount of debt Dhaka and Chattogram Wasa have taken on over the past decade to fund projects to improve their overall service. According Prothom Alo, while Dhaka Wasa undertook seven such projects by taking Tk 21,000 crore as foreign loan, Chattogram Wasa undertook four projects with foreign loan amounting to Tk 6,288 crore. Although some of the projects have now been completed, their effect has mostly been limited due to poor management and poor planning. Experts fear that even the projects that are currently underway are unlikely to bear much fruit.
Meanwhile, the two Wasa administrations repeatedly raise water tariffs despite their generally poor services. Dhaka Wasa, for example, has increased its water tariff a total of 15 times since 2009.
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The question is, why are they imposing higher water tariffs on consumers and also putting pressure on our economy by undertaking these big projects, if they cannot produce the expected results? Take the Padma-Jashaldia Water Treatment Plant (Phase 1) project in Dhaka Wasa, which was completed three years ago. The Tk-3,670-crore venture aimed to ensure better water supply in parts of the capital. But a third of the plant’s production capacity would remain unused due to a lack of pipelines. Now Dhaka Wasa wants to embark on another project to solve this problem!
The status of other ongoing projects is also not much different, as many have seen their deadlines extended several times while their costs have also increased over the past few years. One of them is the Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply project, launched in October 2013, which is still unfinished. Since all these projects have been implemented or are under development with external debt, the Wasa authorities are required to repay the loans in large installments. Reportedly, in the financial year 2021-22, Dhaka Wasa’s annual loan installment amount was Tk 400 crore, and it will further increase in the coming years. The question is, can they force consumers to increase water rates to repay the loans? Definitely not.
Dhaka and Chattogram Wasa have undertaken such projects although they are neither realistic nor economically sustainable. They should be held accountable for their inefficiencies and failures. Both institutions must stop raising water tariffs to compensate for their own mismanagement and find a way to repay loans based on discussions with all stakeholders.