Water Meters Unworkable Due to High Unemployment, Byo Residents (allAfrica.com)

THE Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) has called on the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) and the government to abandon plans to introduce pre-paid water meters.
The pressure group said the proposal was unworkable under the country’s socio-economic context which is characterised by high unemployment and poor remuneration of workers.
This is contained in a position paper produced by BPRA on the introduction of prepaid water meters in Bulawayo.
In 2013, the city council resolved to introduce prepaid water meters as a solution for revenue problems faced by the local authority as residents, government and the business community failed to settle water bills.
The local authority has often argued that the introduction of pre-paid water meters would force stakeholders to pay hence solving the city’s financial problems.
The move has since been endorsed by government through the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate, which ordered local authorities to install pre-paid water meters to help finance service delivery.
However, in its research findings, BPRA dismissed the local authority’s argument saying the move would disadvantage residents, especially those from poor backgrounds.
“The residents of Bulawayo consulted for this study are dismissive of pre-paid water meters. They argue that pre-paid water meters pose a threat to the right to water, particularly for the poor who would not always have the money to purchase water credits in advance.
“In this context, pre-paid water meters exacerbate inequalities and conserve water in a cruel manner, punishing the poor while the wealthy can use as much water as they want.
“They also point out that prepaid water meters proffer the message that the rich can use as much water as they want, while the poor may go without water,” read part of the findings.
BPRA also argued that the requirement to purchase water upfront would deny the poor their right to water.
“The requirement to purchase water upfront becomes a barrier preventing the poor from accessing water. Thus the pre-paid water meters initiative is an affront to government’s declared objective of improving the living standards of the citizenry as highlighted under ZimAsset.
“More so, the initiative is an antithesis to government’s goal of improving access to water and sanitation services as reflected in the Social Services and Poverty Reduction Cluster. Pre-paid water meters are likely to restrict access to water services by the poor,” the organisation said.
BPRA proposed that instead of burdening residents with this water management system, the local authority should install the pre-paid water metres at government and commercial entities.
“The argument is that for institutions that are commercial in nature or under the ambit of the government, and using water for more than the basic needs and survival, the notion of prepaid water meters makes sense.
“It is for the average Zimbabwean, particularly the poor that prepaid water meters are unsuitable,” the organisation said.
In its recommendations, BPRA urged the local authority to find alternative means to collect revenue adding that extensive consultation should be carried out prior to the installation of the pre-paid water meters.
The organisation also urged the local government ministry to carry out an extensive research on affordability of water to residents, as a means of determining the best billing system to employ.
While pre-paid water meters are relatively new to Zimbabwe, they have been in use in other African countries like South Africa, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique, among others.
Source: Business