In the pipeline

If the government has its way and approves the Water Supply Tariff Commission (WSTC) proposal for water tariff, as recommended by the Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL), every consumer will get the bitter taste in their mouths possibly effective tomorrow. And KUKL is in charge of dealing with the water supply for the Kathmandu Valley. It may be agreed that the cost of everything has gone up but all this has happened due to various factors including the problems the government is having in dealing with the inflationary trend. The basis cited by the water authorities is that the tariff has to be hiked in keeping with the cost of operations. However, a small increase is expected by the consumers but the proposed tariff presents an altogether different scenario with the low income consumers coming under greater financial burden. To cite, the hike proposed would be between 10 to 30 per cent over the prevailing one. For the private users, the proposed rate would be Rs. 82.50 for the first 10,000 litres compared with the present Rs. 50. Moreover, an anomaly exists in the said proposal for levying Rs. 205.80 for 10,000 litres for community tap users. The groundwork for the fixation of the water tariff itself seems to be faulty because the poor are to be overburdened by the cost rather than those who can afford.

The hike has been proposed at a time when the water supply body has not been able to meet the requirements of the consumers though they have to pay the minimum tariff. On top of it, the sewerage charge inclusive to the water tariff looks out of place when one observes that very little has been done in this regard. The tall talk remains of meeting the people’s minimum water requirement but the focus is only realizing additional revenue. Such a harsh picture comes when the Melamchi Water Supply Project is yet to be completed to materialize the dream of more than sufficient water. In fact, the reality is that the pressure of the donor agency seems to be highhanded forcing the local water supply agency to go for the disagreeable tariff proposal. It must be remembered that the hike, if it is implemented in the same format, would invite more questions and criticisms than goodwill.

The repairs and maintenance of the water pipes is always questionable. There is the shortage of water. While new water lines are being sanctioned, many existing consumers are accustomed to seeing their dry taps despite having to pay the minimum tariff. The sewerage charge too is a contentious issue. Until and unless the KUKL has concrete plans and programmes to fulfil the water needs of the valley people, raising the tariff will be adding one more public grievance that will be counterproductive. It should have the strategy on how it can meet the water needs of the valley and on how it can cut costs before deciding on the hike. Those in positions of authority do not often feel any qualm about burdening the people. Price hike is not the only measure available. Meanwhile, the government has to make the KUKL play a responsible role related to adequate water supply to the consumers and cost reduction. The proposed tariff needs to be justified.