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From the World Water Forum: Twenty Years After Dublin, Paying for Water is Still Controversial

Michael Peter Steen Jacobsen's picture

In a session on Financing Water for All, Ian Banda, CEO of the Kafubu Water and Sewerage Company, said that poor people who are not connected to the network in the Copperbelt towns in Zambia pay their local vendor 10 to 12 times more for water than poor and rich people pay to the utility. Juergen, from the International Secretariat for Water, a Canadian NGO, found that charging for water is immoral.As Juergen said, "Why do you enforce payments for water? This is just another asocial way to control the urban poor." Banda noted that the tariff structure was such that high water users pay more per unit and that the Zambian regulator is insisting that small amounts of water should not cost too much. Charging for water is not immoral, Banda argued. Instead, he continued, "what's immoral is not being able to connect and service the poor."

To me, that seems to be the most important thing in this debate.

It is now 20 years since governments meeting in Dublin declared that "Water is a social and economic good". We still meet people who think that water should be not be considered an economic good and who believe that this would benefit the poor. But, based on what I am hearing in Marseilles, most of the African utilities and governments represented here understand and agree with the message from Dublin.