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Water authority overcharges village residents

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:

Representatives for nearly 50 families protested yesterday asking the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority (PPWSA) to rectify a clerical error that led to high monthly water bills for residents of two communities.

More than 20 people representing families from two communities in Tuek L’ak Muoy commune, Tuol Kork district, said the price for water had doubled since November.

Phuong Pisey, a resident of village 15, protested in front of the PPWSA building yesterday and told Khmer Times that while people are still using the same amount of water every day, the rate increased by 300 percent for November and December.

He said the government and the PPWSA should review the prices and intervene on their behalf.

“Last month, I used enough water that would have cost me only 110,500 riel. But in November and December, the price rose to 224,850, which is double for me. For others the price multiplied by three or four also. So we are gathering today to protest for the accuracy of our community,” he said.

Ngin Chantrea, PPWSA’s deputy director general, acknowledged the problem and said it was a technical mistake by PPWSA officials who estimated the water consumption figures without recording them properly. Many customers were not home when the PPWSA working teams went to check the numbers, she said.

“For example, a house uses about 30 cubic meters per month and the working team estimated a number similar to it, but they [the customer] actually used 40 cubic meters. So the remaining 10 cubic meters each month were added on to the last two months which compiled into hundreds of cubic meters and their payment turned to a second and third level which made it expensive,” she told Khmer Times, adding that the residents has actually been undercharged.

PPWSA officials will go back to the community to check on the situation today and fix any lingering issues. In terms of compensation, PPWSA is going to allow families who were affected to pay in installments each month. The staff members who caused the issue may be dismissed, she added.

Tith Seab said her family had used a bit more than 40 cubic meters of water during an average month which cost them about 36,000 riel (about $9). But in November and December, their bill showed that they had used 147 cubic meters at a cost of 170,000 riel.

“When citizens complained about this matter, PPWSA officials blamed their staff, who they say forgot to reset the meter from last month causing the large usage numbers. We cannot accept this. If tomorrow, they fail to have an effective meeting with us, we will go to Prime Minister Hun Sen for intervention,” she said.

According to the protesters, there are more than 240 families living in village 15 and more than 340 in village 16. Approximately half of the citizens in the villages were affected, but many did not join the protests.

The protesters went to the PPWSA to protest last Wednesday and returned to protest again after they were ignored.

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