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Residents Of Bindura, Zimbabwe, Irate Over Million-Dollar Water Bills

Residents of the northeast Zimbabwean town of Bindura are up in arms after receiving water bills for millions of local dollars, and a local association has urged its members to withhold payment of water bills to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority.

The Bindura Residents Association said water bills are far too high - some this month reached $3 million (US$3) for homes, compared with Z$100,000 or so previously.

A ZINWA official in Harare, speaking on condition he not be named, said the authority increased rates for water on Aug. 1 with the approval of President Robert Mugabe's cabinet, but did not inform consumers, as should have been done.

He said that the cost of water purification chemicals soared after a government freeze on prices was lifted, leaving ZINWA with no choice but to raise consumer tariffs.

He said residents should inform ZINWA if they think their water meter is broken.

Bindura Residents Association spokesman Tinashe Madamombe told reporter Jonga Kndemiiri of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that his group is not only questioning water bills, but challenging ZINWA's takeover of Bindura's municipal water system.

The Zimbabwean parliament passed legislation earlier this year allowing ZINWA to take over all municipal water systems in the country, many of which were struggling to provide an adequate supply to residents and businesses. However, water revenues were a fiscal mainstay of local governments - most of which are controlled by the opposition - so the move was widely seen as a revenue grab by Harare.

More reports from VOA'sStudio 7 for Zimbabwe...