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December 17, 2009

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24% water price hike endorsed

A MAJORITY of public representatives voted for a 24.3 percent hike proposed for the water price at a public hearing in Beijing yesterday, but they also agreed to phase in rises over the next three years.

Twenty-four representatives of residents, industrial users, lawmakers, political advisers, scholars, social groups, government officials and water companies attended the hearing.

Of the 25 votes, 22 were in favor of the government-proposed price hike, hoping it could help increase water-use efficiency in the city, which faces frequent water shortages.

Two voted against and one agreed to a one-step price hike.

A resident representative was sick yesterday, but she submitted a written document to express her opinion.

Most of the 22 representatives who supported the rise said authorities should take into consideration the effect on residents and raise the price gradually over three years.

Only a representative from the government-owned Beijing Waterworks Group, the city's water supplier, favored a second plan proposed by the government for a one-off price hike.

The municipal government proposed the rise to discourage residents from wasting water and to ease water shortages.

The price of water for residential use would rise from 3.7 yuan (54 US cents) to 4.6 yuan per cubic meter, according to the proposed plan by the government.

The government would offer subsidies to poor families to ensure their living standards were not affected, the plan said.

"I agree with the price hike, but the water companies should meanwhile further improve the water quality and service for consumers," said Ge Youshan, a representative from the Beijing Bar Association.

Zhu Yufeng, a resident representative from the Haidian District, was one of the two who spoke against the hike.

"Air pollution and environment pollution have led to the decrease in water resources. That is an international issue. No matter how much money you have, you cannot buy water if a worldwide water crisis takes place," she said.

"On the other hand, industrial users and migrant populations have also driven up water consumption, so it is not proper for local residents alone to pay."


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