Water consumers in Lahore are paying 40% more for water and sewerage

PTI/PML-Q Punjab government silently increased water tariff in September to increase the revenues of cash starved WASA

The coalition government of PTI and PML-Q in Punjab has increased the water and sewerage tariff of Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA) since October. The water tariff was increased 25% in September by a LDA governing board chaired by CM Punjab Ch Parvez Elahi and attended by provincial ministers belonging to PTI.

This is the first increase in the water and sewerage bill since 2004. Ch Parvez Elahi led PML-Q government had 40% hike in water tariff in 2004. PML-N government in Punjab didn’t hike the water and sewerage bill for domestic consumers from 2008 to 2018. The water tariff for commercial consumers was increased in 2017.  

The governing body had unanimously approved a twenty-five per cent increase in water bills, which will be applied to domestic and commercial consumers. As the result of this tariff increase, the WASA consumers in Lahore are paying 40% for water and sanitation since November 2022.  PTI leaders criticise the federal government whenever the prices of petrol and electricity are increased but did the same in Lahore.

How strange it is that the PTI leadership is blaming the federal government for price hike but burdened the water consumers in Lahore with increase in WASA bills.  

The water bill of a 3-marla house is hiked from Rs287 to Rs358, a 5-marla house from Rs375 to Rs468, and a 7-marla from Rs464 to Rs580. Likewise, the bill of a 10-marla house has been increased from Rs553 to Rs691 and 15-marla from Rs641 to Rs802. But overall, the WASA bill for water and sewerage has increased 40%. The WASA bill of a 3 marla house has been increased from Rs 428 to Rs 600 per month.

The WASA officials are saying that the increase was inevitable due to rising costs. The WASA spokesman said that “Owing to high inflation, the human resource cost, power cost and WASA’s frozen tariff, the unit cost of service delivery is almost double its sale price. The gap between cost and sale price is likely to be widened each year if no corrective measure is taken,” reads the proposal. It says that currently WASA is in severe financial constraints due to continuous increase / implementation of A-3 electricity tariff, causing huge electricity bills that have become unaffordable.

“WASA Lahore alone has about 600 tube wells meant for supplying water to a huge population round the clock. Besides, the agency has thousands of employees whose salaries are a major financial expense among many others. Therefore, WASA is required to increase its revenue. But it is only possible if the government allows it to rationalise the tariff,” the official said.

In May last, all five WASAs had sought Rs6.78bn bailout package to run the day-to-day affairs, especially clearance of electricity bills. The bailout package included Rs2.62bn for Lahore, Rs953m for Faisalabad, Rs640m for Gujranwala, Rs1.8bn for Multan and Rs1.4bn for Rawalpindi.

However, the government in June approved and released Rs1.5 billion cumulatively for five WASAs to pay their outstanding electricity bills. The Rs1.5 billion released by the finance department included Rs480 million for Lahore, Rs210 million for Faisalabad, Rs160 million for Gujranwala, Rs350 million for Multan and Rs300 million for Rawalpindi.

                                                        Rukhsana Manzoor deputy editor  

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