Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) loses around Tk 35 crore a year because of 35 percent systems loss caused mainly by illegal connections, cracks in supply lines and underhand dealings of unscrupulous officials.
The 2,534km-long Wasa supply network in the capital and Narayanganj has over 1 lakh illegal connections, which causes the most systems loss. The Wasa is deprived of Tk 1 crore a year for 1 percent systems loss, said an official of the organisation.
Wasa Managing Director Raihanul Abedin said the number of illegal connections from Wasa supply lines is huge because the Wasa covers areas beyond the city corporation area.
"We have requested the Army through the LGRD ministry to conduct a customer survey--which will take about six months to complete--and then we will know the exact number of illegal connections," Abedin said.
"Then we will be able to take proper action in this regard," he added.
Most illegal connections exist in Mirpur, Postagola and the old town and at the slums, said a Wasa official.
Illegal connections and cracks in supply lines are also causing water supply deficit, he added.
The Wasa presently produces 170 crore litre water a day against the demand for 210 crore litre in the capital and Narayanganj, he said.
According to Wasa statistics, it presently has about 2,46,977 connections in Dhaka and Narayanganj, of which 2,37,288 residential, 6,032 commercial, 1,667 industrial, 1,212 are service-oriented and 777 for offices. Of these connections, 10,000 are in Narayanganj.
Mohammad Abul Kalam Azad, deputy chief revenue officer of Dhaka City Corporation, said according to their records as of April this year, the number of holdings in Dhaka city is around 2,17,454.
Urban expert and Chairman of Centre for Urban Studies (CUS) Prof Nazrul Islam said as per a survey conducted by CUS a few years back the total number of slums in the city is 4,996.
An official of the Wasa revenue department said they have been giving water supply connections to different slums through NGOs and some 10 slums in the city have so far had legal connections through these NGOs.
Talking to the residents of Kalshi slum and Shah Paran slum in Mirpur-12, it was apparent that the two slums have some 700 illegal connections from Wasa pipelines for around 10,000 families living there.
Hazrat Ali, a resident of Kalshi slum, said they tried several times to get legal connections from the Wasa 10 years ago but did not get any response from the Wasa officials who said they issued connections only against holding number.
"Four supply pipes of the Wasa were set up in the area by the local commissioner and an NGO at that time and we had our houses connected with those pipes," he said.
"About 700 pipes are connected with the four supply pipes and we get water freely," said Abul Sardar, who helped a few dwellers get water in exchange for money.
These pipes have meantime developed cracks and contribute to the loss of a good amount of water, said a Wasa official, adding that the supply water also gets polluted and stinky through these cracks.
About one-fifth of Wasa pipelines are very old and need immediate replacement, he said.
Currently, the Wasa has about 2,534 kilometres of pipeline network and over 15-20 percent of the system has pipelines of cast iron (CI) and mild steel (MS) while 2-3 percent of the network has asbestos cement (AC) pipelines.
The AC and MS pipes were mostly installed around 40 years ago while the CI pipes were installed during the British rule, Wasa sources said.
More than 70 percent of the supply network has PVC pipes, which are in good condition.
The Wasa has also installed high quality ductile iron (DI) pipelines in its supply network although its ratio is negligible compared to the total service network, officials said.
They said the longevity of most AC pipes in the network has already expired while the CI and MS pipes have become rusty and weak and developed cracks.
Water is supplied to a large area in Dhanmondi and some parts of Motijheel and Mohammadpur through MS pipes, and most areas of Lalmatia, Khilgaon, Moghbazar, Malibagh, Mirpur and some areas in Banani, Mohammadpur and Segunbagicha through AC pipelines.
The supply network in Lalbagh, Chawkbazar, Moulavibazar, Sadarghat, Bangla Bazar, Gendaria, Islampur, Sutrapur, Bangshal, Armanitola and parts of Narinda mostly has CI pipes installed during the British period, Wasa sources said.
The Wasa managing director said they have taken up a project financed by the Asian Development Bank for installing and replacing pipelines and a process for appointing consultants for the project is going on.
A Wasa official claimed that as many as 70,000 holdings in the capital and Narayanganj do not have any meters while some 60,000 meters are currently out of order, which is another reason for the huge systems loss.
"We are importing meters through private firms in phases and the number of meter has been increasing," he said, adding, "Now we are not allowing anybody to get new connection without meter."
The underhand dealings between the Wasa officials and employees and customers are another reason for the systems loss.
These Wasa officials take bribes from the customers and prepare bills much less than the actual, thus depriving the government of huge revenue, said an official, adding, "We will take action against the officials and employees found guilty of any irregularity.”