Hawkers blamed for clogged drains


Yew (standing) and Suhaimi (seated foreground) explaining to the hawkers about the importance of moving to a temporary site to allow for the drainage upgrading work to be carried out. — Photos: ONG SOON HIN/The Star

DRAINS at the Kepong Baru open-air market in Jalan Bangau are badly in need of cleaning and an upgrade.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) plans to solve the problem faced

by market hawkers as well as that of nearby residents who complain about clogged drains in their neighbourhood.

However, the hawkers appear to be the biggest hindrance to DBKL’s plans as they do not want to move to a temporary site to enable upgrading work.

This is despite their actions having caused the clogged drains to begin with.

During a recent meeting between DBKL Community Development and Urban Wellbeing Department Kepong branch manager Mohd Suhaimi Shariff and market hawkers, many disagreements arose.

He told around 200 hawkers that the move was temporary and that the drainage upgrade would take only two months to be completed.

Ng (standing) asking DBKL to fulfil hawkers’ requests if they agree to a temporary relocation.Ng (standing) asking DBKL to fulfil hawkers’ requests if they agree to a temporary relocation.

He also said that the hawkers could continue operating at a new location 80m away from the market.

DBKL has also allocated 290 lots to accommodate 367 vendors under a rotation system, and water supply will be provided from three static tanks placed at an empty carpark near the new trading site.

Their original lots are also promised to them upon moving back to the market once the upgrade is completed.

Spokesperson for the hawkers Ng Wan Oh, 55, a vegetable seller, insisted that DBKL bear the cost and responsibility for the dismantling of the existing structures of their stalls.

“Earlier, DBKL ordered us to upgrade our stalls to have stainless steel table tops. All this cost was a burden to us.

“Now we are asked to fork out more money for the relocation, it is just too much for us to bear, ” he said and asked the local authority to give them more time to move out.

“In the notice, we were told to vacate our premises by Oct 5, which is too short a time as the notice was only issued on Sept 25.

“The best is to let us continue trading here until after Chinese New Year next year, ” he said.

Clothes, vegetables and fresh meat stalls are located next to each other at the open-air market.Clothes, vegetables and fresh meat stalls are located next to each other at the open-air market.

Herbs and dried seafood seller Logan Liang, 42, expressed worries of not getting back their original stall lots.

“Those who have been operating within the stipulated allocation of 1.67 sq m space will have no issues.

“But for those who have extended their stall beyond the given space, it will be likened to squeezing an elephant into a mousedeer’s den, ” he said, adding that some stall owners needed a bigger space as they had cabinets, freezers and display units

Liang also said that they could not move to the new site as there was no electricity supply there for the freezers.

He said the stalls were there for over 30 years, occupied by several generations, and that the illegal extension of space had unwittingly happened over time.

“If DBKL can give us a black-and-white agreement that they will move us back to our original lots without any changes to location and size of operating space, it will be good.

“A census should be conducted to determine the size of lots occupied by the existing vendors and reallocation be done in accordance with the census will be reassuring, ” Liang added.

Clothes seller HY Low, 75, said the hawkers were willing to pay backdated charges for the extra space they had taken.

Drain upgrade vital

Suhaimi said drainage upgrading works would run a length of 925m through Jalan Bangau, Jalan Bangau 1, Lorong Bangau 2 and Jalan Camar.

The work is necessary to alleviate flash floods that have been affecting nearby residents for many years.

Suhaimi said the cause of flooding had been traced to the market area where food refuse and rubbish had clogged the drains and impeded water flow during downpours.

Yew Jia Haur, the political secretary to Kepong MP Lim Lip Eng who acted as moderator and translator between the two parties, said it was not possible to delay drainage upgrading works until after Chinese New Year as budget allocated for government projects could not be carried forward.

“If the allocation is not spent, it will be channelled to other projects, ” he told the hawkers.

Years of sludge from grease coming from coffeeshops, as well as food waste and rubbish from stalls are what floats in the drains of the Kepong Baru morning market.Years of sludge from grease coming from coffeeshops, as well as food waste and rubbish from stalls are what floats in the drains of the Kepong Baru morning market.

As for the dismantling charges, Suhaimi said permanent structures built to facilitate storage areas and freezer compartments at trading lots were illegal at morning and night markets.

“When we stipulated that vendors had to follow the new standard operational procedures for stainless steel tops, we made it clear that these cannot be fixed to the ground but have to be set on wheels so that they are mobile, ” he pointed out.

Therefore, he added, if hawkers did not vacate their premises in entirety before moving to the new temporary location, DBKL would do so and fine them.

For those who were operating from extended lots, Suhaimi said it was illegal for open-air market hawkers to do so and should only use the space stipulated in their original licensing agreement.

He said some of the hawkers had also covered up several drains with cement to build illegal structures, and this hindered cleaning efforts by Solid Waste and Public Cleansing Management Corporation (SWCorp).

“In many places, only small gaps are left open at the corners.

A DBKL licensing officer showing the drain covered with concrete at one of the stalls.A DBKL licensing officer showing the drain covered with concrete at one of the stalls.

“Even if they bring in their suction pumps, they are unable to remove the stuck debris because they are too bulky to be removed through the small gaps, ” he explained.

Suhaimi added that the existing condition of the drains was a health concern as poultry sellers and fishmongers threw refuse like blood, feathers and scales into the canals during operation hours.

“A market, by right, should have separate sections for vegetables, meat and dry items.

“But now you can see vendors selling clothes next to poultry stalls, ” he said.

As a conclusion could not be reached during the meeting on Sept 30, he gave the hawkers two weeks to relocate to the new site.

Angry residents

Lack of cooperation from the Kepong Baru morning market hawkers has raised the ire of Kepong Baru residents, who are fed up with having to worry about flash floods every time it rains heavily.

Gabungan Persatuan Penduduk Kepong Kuala Lumpur chairman Loh Kok Wai said residents in Jalan Helang and Jalan Chiak have had to bear with flash floods for the past 20 years.

One of the most often affected facilities in the area is the Tabika Perpaduan Kepong Baru C in Jalan Chiak Padi, where 25 children attend kindergarten.

“I know they have experienced flash floods since 2005 where dirty drain water would enter their classrooms.

“The cleaning up is always done by the two teachers who have to disinfect the classrooms before the children arrive the next morning.

One the drainage upgrade is completed, DBKL will look into providing proper sections for meat, vegetables and clothes stalls at the open-air market.One the drainage upgrade is completed, DBKL will look into providing proper sections for meat, vegetables and clothes stalls at the open-air market.

“Although these areas are located upstream, flooding continues to occur because water that is supposed to flow downstream through the perimeter drains around the market towards Sungai Keroh, cannot be discharged in a timely manner, ” said Loh.

In 2016, he said their flood woes were supposed to be over when DBKL announced that it had obtained approval for a drain upgrade for the market area.

However, the project was put off due to strong objection by the vendors.

“We have also tried to engage with them several times to not dump their waste and rubbish into the drains so as to minimise clogging, but the reply was there was no need for concern as rain will wash the rubbish away, ” he said.

Citing another example of the hawkers’ lack of concern for hygiene, Loh said in 2015 after a gotong-royong organised by DBKL at the market, SWCorp workers found polystyrene boxes and no less than two sacks of plastic water bottles blocking a sump.

During a meeting with residents, Kepong Community Service Centre head Yee Poh Ping said it would not benefit the hawkers to continue resisting changes meant for the greater good of the community.

“The upgrade will not only mean a more comfortable working environment for the vendors.

“They will also have a cleaner place to operate as the upgrade will enable SWCorp to clean the drains on schedule.

“A more organised market will also be good for their image.”

Yee also said that in an era where supermarkets provided keen competition, traditional markets that continued to operate in dirty conditions would turn off the younger generation.

“The Kepong Baru market may have survived the test of time for the past 30 years.

“But if it continues unchanged, there is no guarantee that it will be around in the next 30 years, ” he added.

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