BY WATIPASO MZUNGU,
PERI-urban and slum dwellers in Lilongwe City are paying two to three times higher per unit price for water than their urban counterparts, a study has revealed.
The study, commissioned by European Union (EU), also reveals that Lilongwe Water Board (LWB) serves 78 percent of the city’s population with 58 percent being served through public water kiosks managed by Water Users Associations (WUAs).
The study discovered that WUAs charge exorbitant amounts for the water they sell to the public.
Lead researcher Maria Rusca said the major objective of the study was to understand the different dimensions to water supply in the Capital City as well as accessibility of the commodity to low-income earners.
“We had engineers, social scientists, geographers, physical geographers and others coming in to take charge of various components of the study. So, at the end of the study, we have found out that many areas are suffering from water shortages. Others do not even have water for three to four days a week,” Rusca said.
She said women suffer the brunt for the problem as they are at times forced to wake up at night to draw water when taps run dry in their areas.
On a positive note, Rusca, who is also a lecturer at Kings College London in the United Kingdom, said she had observed demonstrated commitment by LWB and WUAs to address the challenges women face to access water.
LWB Kiosk Unit Manager and acting Customer Relations Manager, Edward Kwezani, said the high cost of water per unit price in low-income areas is a result of the high costs the utility body incurs in serving its customers.
Kwezani said the solution is for people living in slums and peri-urban areas to increase consumption to reduce the cost of water per unit price.
“It is hard for people in low-income areas to get low water charges because scaling come into the equation. However, as a board, we have an innovation called e-madzi that is helping us to automate the water service system to eliminate intermediaries who are contributing to the higher cost in low-income areas,” he said.
Malawi Economic Justice Network Executive Director, Dalitso Kubalasa, said it is depressing to learn that the poor continue to pay more for services when they were supposed to be cushioned.
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