MDG-F helps provide universal safe water to Albania


MDG-F helps provide universal safe water to Albania

The sustainable supply of safe, sufficient and quality water is a priority for the government of Albania. While access to water has considerably improved in recent years, one of the persistent issues is poor service: the water pipes are old, the quality of water is low and there are frequent water cuts. The recent decentralization and commercialization of water supply services have pushed water prices up, but improvements in service are lagging behind.

Now, a joint UNDP/World Bank programme funded by the MDG-F is helping to tackle the country’s water and sanitation problems. It is working with government and regulatory authorities to improve their oversight of water companies, and giving consumers a stronger voice by soliciting their feedback on water service and promoting dialogue between the water companies and their customers.

Consumer protection in Albania is still at an embryonic stage. Public utility providers often have a monopoly, which gives them a considerable advantage over consumers who are little aware of their rights and are poorly organized. For instance, only a few of the 56 Albanian water companies have a contract with their customers, and the contracts that do exist generally favour the water companies. The absence of water contracts or poorly formulated contracts open the way to all sorts of violations of consumer rights, be it in relation to water consumption measurement, billing, redress for poor water quality, etc.

In an effort to address these problems, the Joint UNDP/World Bank initiative – the Economic Governance, Regulatory Reform and Pro-Poor Development programme – has worked with Albanian ministries and regulatory authorities to develop a “model” contract between the providers of water and sewerage services and their customers. The contract’s aim is to regulate key aspects of the relationship between the two parties and to educate them on their rights and obligations. It will encourage better service by water operators, provide better consumer protection and increase awareness of the role of providers and users in environmental protection.

The model contract was developed using international best practices and in cooperation with all the concerned stakeholders, including the water companies and their association, the consumer associations, the Ministry of Public Works and Transport and the Ministry of Environment. It was approved by the National Regulatory Commission of the Water Regulatory Authority on 4th February 2011. The Water Regulatory Authority and the Joint UN programme will work together not only to introduce the model contract in all the water companies of Albania but also to explain its content to their customers through regional workshops.

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