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Water Pricing For Slum Dwellers In Dhaka Metropolitan Area: Is It Affordable?

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Muhammad Mizanur Rahaman, Tahmid Saif Ahmed, Abdullah Al Hadi
Muhammad Mizanur Rahaman, Tahmid Saif Ahmed, Abdullah Al Hadi
University of Asia Pacific

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 9: Water allocation among competing uses and users,
Article: Oral:


Like many other developing countries, Bangladesh is facing serious water management challenge to ensure affordable water supply for all, especially in urban areas. Both the availability and the quality of water are decreasing in the poor urban areas. Besides, the population situation of the country is getting worst in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, which became one of the megacities in the world in terms of population and urbanization. The percentage of slum population in Dhaka has increased from 25 percent in 1996 to 37.4 percent in 2007, occupying an area of only 4 percent of the total Dhaka Metropolitan Area (DMA). Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) is responsible for providing water in DMA, however, DWASA provides water supply only to the household that has legal residential address. As, like many other megacities, slum dwellers in Dhaka reside in illegal settlements, DWASA cannot supply water to them.

These slum dwellers face several social, economic, political, health and environmental related challenges. Among all these challenges, scarcity of fresh water is one of the major concerns for the slum dwellers in DMA. Because, due to rapid increase of population in Dhaka city, the gross daily water demand will rise from 2460 million liters per day (Ml/d) to 7970 Ml/d within next 15 years, assuming a system loss of 20 percent. There is already a major shortage of required supply of safe water. Due to over abstraction and loss of recharge areas, the groundwater table in Dhaka has declined at an alarming rate over the last couple of decades. Thus good water governance ensuring affordable water pricing has become one of the most important issues for poor urban people in DMA, especially for slum dwellers.


The objectives of this research is to find out:
a) What is the current water price in selected Dhaka city slums?
b) What percentage of income slum dwellers are paying for water?


This research focuses on three selected slums, namely Korail, Godwan, and Tejgaon in Dhaka Metropolitan Area.


* A field study has been conducted between July and August 2014. It involves a semi structured questionnaire survey and focus group discussions with selected slum dwellers and various stakeholders. Stakeholders include local water supply agents, Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority's (DWASA) Director and information officer, local DWASA agent, power elite and middlemen; activists of national NGOs and legal connection holder in the study area.
* For secondary data source, a wide range of books, peer-reviewed articles, paper clippings, research documents, seminar papers, concepts notes and related websites have been reviewed.


a) Results from this study reveal that slum dwellers of Tejgaon and Godown slums are paying about 7 times higher than official rate of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA). And inhabitants of Korail slum are paying 14 times higher than official rate of DWASA.
b) Results show that the slum dwellers in study area are paying about 17% of their total income whereas legal connection holders of respective area are paying only 4% of their income. Still the slum dwellers do not get DWASA services as per their requirement. It is also observed that slum dwellers of Dhaka city are paying higher percentage of their income in comparison to that of Dhaka city dwellers and the even dwellers of Singapore and Switzerland.
c) Results indicate that the water price paid by the slum dwellers in the study area is exactly same to that paid by the inhabitants of Switzerland. Water service in Switzerland is one of the best in the world in respect to its quality and availability. But it is astonishing that slum dwellers are not getting same or even closer to it though they are paying the same price. It is also observed that paying such a big amount for water they are not getting it according to their requirement.


This paper tries to grasp and analyze the ongoing multi-faceted problems, with main concentration on water pricing and role of various factors at the city slums in water supply and distribution. The discussions on water governance, water pricing and factors behind water governance give clear hints that the efficient participation of formal and informal organizations/ various stakeholders in the management and development of water is necessary and thus demanded.

Accordingly, this paper aims to generate a deeper understanding of the problems and thereby recommend some alternatives to improve the situation. The three slums we studied, have been coping with serious multi-faceted problems with water governance. It is observed that slum dwellers are paying seven times more than the official rate of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (DWASA) for water. On average, slum dwellers in the study area spend 16% of their income for water services, whereas legal connection holders of DWASA spend only 4% of their income.

Corruption is a factor, which has been aggravating the water problems and considerably disrupted the water governance in general. Middle-men of the slums control the whole water distribution process and are backed up by severe corruption of DWASA officials. Water charges set by those middle-men are not controlled and thus become too high for the slums dwellers. Public participation in decision-making is not encouraging and there is no accountability from DWASA officials. Politicians do not care about this crowded slum because it is regarded as an informal settlement and thus no efforts for basic services are made. 1. United Nations, World Urbanization Prospects the 2011 Revision, United Nations Department of Economic, Social Affairs Population Division, 2012.
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8. E. D. Sclar, P. Garau, and G. Carolini, "The 21st century health challenge of slums and cities," The Lancet, vol. 365, no. 9462, pp. 901–903, 2005.

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