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LAHORE: The Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) administration says over Rs237.5 billion is required to ensure a trouble-free water supply, sewerage, drainage and wastewater treatment for Lahore.

An official source quoted Wasa Managing Director (MD) Syed Zahid Aziz as having said at a meeting, presided over by Punjab Housing Minister Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed on Thursday.

The MD also asked the government to enhance tariff for water supply and sewerage/drainage charges in order to meet expenses.

Giving a breakdown of the demand, the official said that of Rs237.5 billion, Rs53.340 billion will be for water supply and surface water treatment, Rs98.836 billion for sewerage system and Rs85.388 billion for wastewater treatment.

The official, who was also present in the meeting, said the minister expressed displeasure over the proposal to increase water and sanitation tariff, though the tariff has not been increased from 2002.

“Why did the previous PML-N government not allow Wasa to do so?” the minister said. “And now when we have just taken over the Punjab government, you are asking us to increase tariff. How is it possible (to increase charges) when Wasa’s performance related to water and sanitation services is not up to the mark? You first improve services enabling us to convince the people accept the increase in tariff in future.”

“If we allow you to increase the tariff with an immediate effect, it will damage the impression of the PTI government. So keep this issue on hold for now,” the minister added.

The Wasa admin said the issues such as old and inadequate sewerage system in central, south and Shahdara zones, combined sewerage and drainage system for domestic and storm sewage, untreated wastewater and increasing public demand for water supply (in the areas which do not fall under Wasa’s jurisdiction), inadequate pressure and non-revenue water were creating a bad impression of Wasa among the public. He said the city’s water source was ground water which of static level on average is 150ft. “Water level is declining one meter a year and the fast lowering water table is a serious challenge for the future. And for sustainable water supply, alternate water source is necessary,” the MD said at the meeting.

He said delay in approval of policies such as Municipal Water Act, Water Regulatory Authority, subsidy, slow pace of decision making owing to passing through multiple channels/ authorities etc, contract appointments, lack of field vehicles and demand for services in non Wasa areas were also among several issues the agency has been facing since long. He urged the minister to make efforts for making Wasa an independent authority like LDA. “If the government converts Wasa into a Water and Sanitation Authority, many issues will be resolved,” he said.

The minister said the government would try to fulfill the promises it made with the people before coming into power. He said his department would have no room for the officers who used to play delaying tactics in the way of providing relief to the people or swift public service delivery.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018