Minister of Water Supply and Estate Infrastructure Development, Jeevan Thondaman, emphasized that there are no plans to increase the water tariffs. Instead, the ministry is diligently working on implementing a water tariff formula, set to roll out in January 2024, he said.
He assured the public that following the water tariff hike in August 2023, there will be no further increases. The focus is now on developing a cost recovery formula, a collaborative effort with the Water Board, and Asian Development Bank (ADB) project, an integral part of a policy-based sub-program. This sub-program aims to contribute US $ 100 million to the centralized budget upon completion, he said.
Minister Thondaman addressing the News Briefing at the Presidential Media Centre (PMC) on Tuesday (24) under the theme ‘Collective path to a stable country’ clarified the government’s stance on water tariffs and announced initiatives to support the Upcountry community.
He refuted the recent rumours speculating about the current formula’s intention to guarantee fair water access while safeguarding those in vulnerable segments of society. These individuals are beneficiaries of social welfare programs such as Samurdhi and Aswasuma, and this speculation is seen in light of the upcoming elections.
The Minister emphasised that notably, of the approximately 2.96 million connections within the Water Board, the estate sectors are excluded, as they fall under the Rural Community Water Supply Department. This department extends its services not only to the estate community but to all rural areas, working closely with 5,000 community-based organizations. Therefore, the water tariff in question applies exclusively to Water Board consumers.
In addition to this, Minister Thondaman shared that the Ministry of Estate Infrastructure is preparing to commemorate the Upcountry community’s contributions to the nation spanning two hundred years on November 2nd. The Ministry is also actively engaged in initiatives aimed at benefiting the Upcountry community, he said.
A charter, featuring seven committees, has been formed within the ministry to address a wide range of issues specific to the plantation sector. These committees are dedicated to economic upliftment of women and children, on gender equality, health, education, sports and other activities.
He said this charter will serve as a comprehensive guideline for all ministries, offering insights into how to address the unique concerns of the Upcountry community and reintegrate them into Sri Lankan society, ending their isolation within the plantation sector.
Minister Thondaman underlined the significance of the Upcountry community, consisting of approximately 200,000 estate working families and roughly about 150,000- 200,000 workers. Further an additional 800,000 to 1.2 million individuals who are part of their families, reside within the estates.
He stressed the importance of recognizing not only estate workers but also the broader community and their identities in these endeavours, the President’s Media Division (PMD) reported.