Time to boycott dirty restaurants


  • Focus
  • Saturday, 06 Jul 2019

Alam Flora contract workers facing great difficulty removing hardened oil and grease from drains in Brickfields.

RECENTLY, a member of the Brickfields community WhatsApp group shared pictures of Alam Flora contract workers cleaning up the filthy drains next to restaurants in the township.

Even though this is not the first time I have seen such pictures of Brickfields, the images made me sick, disgusted and angry!

My immediate thought was how could this be happening again!

Back in 2016, I reported that Alam Flora pulled out more than 130tonnes of fat, oil and grease (collectively known as FOG) from Kuala Lumpur drains.

A restaurant worker caught in the act of dumping dirty and oily water directly into drains of Brickfields. — Filepic

A restaurant worker caught in the act of dumping dirty and oily water directly into drains of Brickfields. — Filepic

The FOG was dumped by restaurant operators in 10 commercial areas in Malaysia’s capital city, namely Bukit Bintang, Pudu and Brickfields.

Alam Flora chief executive officer Datuk Mohd Zain Hassan illustrated that the amount of gunk could fill four normal-sized swimming pools.

And in 2017, the back lanes of Brickfields near Scott Road was flooded by wastewater that was a backflow from clogged drains.

Wastewater spilled out of the drains bringing with it oil, grease and dead rodents onto the streets. The road surface became so slippery that several pedestrians were reported to have slipped and fallen.

Back then, after the incident, I remembered everyone made a commitment to buck up and do something about the situation.

Fast forward to 2019. Barely two years later and here we go again!

Our drains and ageing reticulation system are reeling from the stress compounded by FOG.

We cannot even begin to imagine what this filth is doing to our rivers!

The latest photos of workers scooping up from the drains tonnes of food waste and oil all meshed together in one big pile of mess was sickening to look at.

Alam Flora told me that workers took several hours to dig out all that gunk.

The entire operation was a heavy burden because work was hampered by illegal extensions built over the drains by some of the establishments, not to mention the lengths of illegal utility cables running across some of the drains.

While Alam Flora did not have exact data on how much muck was cleaned from the drains that day, the company said on average, 0.5tonnes of rubbish and FOG are removed from a 100m stretch of drains beside eateries, which usually filled up half a vacuum truck. That’s alarming.

I keep wondering how can this still be happening.

Especially since DBKL had tightened rules for business licence applications, whereby restaurants that failed to instal grease traps would face action.

This ruling, which was introduced in 2013, was only made mandatory in 2017.

The fee was set according to the food outlet’s grease trap usage and, for a restaurant, it would amount to about RM125 a month or RM1,500 a year.

So when restaurant owners renew their licence, they will have to pay the grease traps maintenance fee as well.

Failure to do so will result in the businesses becoming illegal and will be shut down.

One would logically expect that after 2017, there should be a reduction of such occurrence.

The offensive photos posted in the chat group immediately ignited a string of comments about how shocking it was that the drains were clogged up again and how irresponsible restaurant owners continued to dump food waste into the drains.

Some called for the proprietors to be fined, while others demanded that they be hauled to court.

DBKL told me that what usually happened was that once the restaurant had their licence renewed, they stopped maintaining the grease traps.

So in most places, the grease traps are just for show and no longer functioning properly.

So no one gets caught and penalised, and the taxpayers end up paying for the clean-up.

Yes, you read correctly.

LA21 secretariat and coordinator A. Ghani Mohamed, who is also the section head for Indah Water Konsortium (IWK) Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya pipelines network, said the recent blockage in Brickfields had cost taxpayers thousands of ringgit to clean up.

Ghani also said it took two weeks to

clean up 10 manholes choked with FOG,

and work at each manhole cost approximately RM1,000.

It is frustrating to hear the same old

story again and again and personally, it is upsetting to find the same issue cropping up over and over.

Those who are quick to point out the role of enforcement officers must bear in mind the officers cannot be expected to be on site 24 hours a day.

Kuala Lumpur is a big city and the responsibility of caring for it also lies with its citizens.

I think it is time we take some drastic action.

It is time to boycott these dirty eateries that continue to dump FOG into drains and fail to maintain their grease traps and hygiene levels.

Let us teach these errant eateries a lesson once and for all. I say hit them in their bottom line! That’s where it hurts most.

This brings me back to a conversation I had with DBKL Health and Environment Department director Dr Noor Akma Shabudin last year after the Raj Banana Leaf restaurant fiasco.

She said not to judge a restaurant by its frontage and dining area, advising us to go to its back lane and look at the washing area, kitchens and drains.

“If it is filthy, boycott,” she said.

Yes, most eateries tend to put a lot of effort into their frontage and dining space, but spend sparingly on the kitchen, toilets and washing area.

Which is why you often see kitchen workers cutting meat and vegetables and washing produce on the ground at the back lanes.

As consumers and responsible citizens, we have the power to make a difference.

We need to send a strong message to such irresponsible establishments that what they are doing (or in the grease trap case, not doing) is unacceptable.

I have also noticed the lack of participation from the business community, particularly the restaurants and commercial enterprises, during major gotong-royong in the township.

Having covered numerous such sessions in Kuala Lumpur and Brickfields, I have hardly seen anyone from the business community taking part in the clean-up effort.

Due to this lack of participation, organisers are forced to hire buses to ferry volunteering students and residents from other areas to help clean up Brickfields.

I say enough is enough. What say you KL-ites?


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