HCMC plan to hike water prices runs into stiff opposition

By Mai Vong, Thanh Nien News

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A man living on Ho Chi Minh City’s outskirts uses rainwater from a tank since his house does not get tap water. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre A man living on Ho Chi Minh City’s outskirts uses rainwater from a tank since his house does not get tap water. Photo credit: Tuoi Tre

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An announcement by the Ho Chi Minh City water utility at a meeting Tuesday that it plans to hike tariffs by 10.5 percent every year for the next five years was met with protests, with critics urging the state-owned Saigon Water Corporation to instead reduce water leakages to cut costs.
Officials from the utility, commonly known as Sawaco, said that city authorities have approved an increase in water prices to VND5,300-17,800 (25-83 US cents) a cubic meter this year and VND7,900-26,600 by 2019.
Tran Thien Tu of the city Fatherland Front Committee, which monitors the city government’s activities and policies in public interest, replied that the company needs to first reduce its losses from water leakage.
Several other participants supported Tu, saying that if the company reduces leakages, it would not have to make people pay more.
Sawaco has admitted in the past that 32.85 percent of the water is lost because of leaking and broken pipes.
This translates into a loss of 550,000 cubic meters and VND5.9 billion ($276,600) per day at current average tariffs.
Chau Minh Ty of the city Association of Elderly said he doubted that people would receive better quality water at higher prices.
“When will we be able to drink directly from the tap like in many other countries?”
The Vietnamese government sets public utility prices, which are hiked at least once every year, despite poor access to services for many rural communities.
Even in HCMC, many families living on the outskirts do not get tap water.
Nguyen Thanh Chung, director of the city Department of Transport, which manages water supply, said at a meeting last November that it would take until 2025 and cost around VND70 trillion (nearly $3.3 billion) to supply clean water to every part of the city.

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