(Petaling Jaya, Friday): The Cabinet should freeze the 20 to 75 per cent increase in water tariffs in Selangor and the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya and set up a Utilities Tribunal to make recommendations on the validity of the water rate increases and if so, the proper quantum for the increases.
Just because the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has publicly come out in support of the water tariffs increases should not make him the final authority on the matter and to absolve the Selangor Waterworks Department (JBA) the responsibility and onus to justify both the tariff increases as well as the quantum of increases.
Although JBA had given reasons to back the tariff increases, that the rates were not increased for the past ten years, the new rates will enable the upgrading of the existing piping system and enhance consumer awareness on the need to use water effectively, and the high cost of developing water supply project, public interest and considerations of fair play demand that the counter arguments why there should not be increases or the quantum of increases as proposed should be heard and weighed before a final decision is taken.
The inefficiency and negligence of the water authorities in allowing an outstanding debt of RM219 million by consumers and a 42% rate of loss of non-revenue water per year through leakages and old pipes, and its failure to carry out effective water conservation campaigns, cannot be used as justification for increases of water tariffs.
The Cabinet should set up a Utilities Tribunal including representatives from consumers to consider the case both for and against the water tariffs increases and the quantum of increases, which would also serve as a good lesson to all water authorities and organisations responsible for public utility services that they have a public duty to be efficient and cannot use their inefficiency and negligence to penalise consumers by demanding unjustifiable tariffs increases.