Malawians should brace for more hard times as water boards in the country have increased the price of water by up to 45 percent following government approval.
In the wake of the tariff hike, a human rights activist has since urged for more efficiency among the water boards to minimise water losses currently estimated at 40 percent.
Malawi has five water boards, namely Blantyre Water Board (BWB), Southern Region Water Board (SRWB), Lilongwe Water Board (LWB), Central Region Water Board (CRWB) and Northern Region Water Board (NRWB).
LWB said in a published statement on Wednesday that it effected a 45 percent tariff hike on August 1.
In a telephone interview from Mzuzu, NRWB chief executive officer (CEO) Titus Mtegha said on Wednesday his board raised the tariffs by 35 percent effective September 1 2015.
He said: “What necessitated this raise were the high cost of inputs such as electricity and water treatment chemicals.”
CRWB CEO Gift Sageme said in an interview the increase of water tariffs was effective August 1 2015.
However, he could not give specific rates of increase as the board has different customer categories and that he was out of office; hence, did not have the figures handy.
Said Sageme: “You should know that the board has different customer categories and the increases vary. I am talking about kiosks, commercial, institutional and personal customers. I am, however, not in office to tell you the exact [increase] figures.”
SRWB spokesperson McDonald Phiri also confirmed that his board has raised the tariffs effective July 1 this year, but said he did not have information about the increase percentage.
BWB public affairs officer Priscilla Mateyu yesterday said the board was yet to get official communication from Ministry of Agricuture, Irrigation and Water Development on its proposal for a tariff hike
She said the documentation was scheduled to be in by today.
But governance commentator Rafik Hajat said much as the tariff increases can be justified, the water boards in the country have failed to control lost water.
He said: “I can understand why they have increased the tariffs considering that some boards tap water from far. However, they need to control lost water which is at 40 percent.”
The boards face a number of challenges, including payment defaults mostly by government institutions and leakages.
In April last year, LWB, for example, announced that government departments owe it about K267 million in unsettled bills with the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) as the major culprit with K141 million.
Principal secretary (Water Development) Sandram Maweru referred the matter to the water boards, saying it is a committee that decides on whether to increase tariffs.
He said: “Talk to them because if their proposals are accepted, they receive letters to that effect.”
Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Water Development Allan Chiyembekeza, whose ministry made the approvals, could not be reached to explain how government intends to control the problem.
The tariff hikes come at a time when some of the country’s water boards such as BWB and LWB are faced with challenges to meet water demand amid rising populations in Blantyre and Lilongwe cities.