THOSE looking for fresh produce may find themselves spoilt for choice at the biggest wet market in Klang, but visitors to the place say the condition of the facilities and hygiene at Pasar Besar Meru are less than satisfactory.
Unusable toilets that are out of order, flooding at the traders’ stalls, ceilings with mould and rubbish-filled drains reeking with the smell of dirty, stagnant water. These are among the complaints by market-goers and traders highlighted to StarMetro about the market built 26 years ago.
Multimedia designer Amir Faiz, 29, who was at the fruit section with his toddler, was visibly perplexed that traders and visitors were allowed to smoke inside the market complex with no reprimand by the authorities.
“The complex is already stuffy enough and the presence of harmful secondary smoke makes it hard to breathe,” said Amir.
Customer Mohd Yusof Abdullah, 40, a food trader who was with his wife Feeza Fauzi, 38, and their five children, said the presence of smelly puddles at the walkways of the fish section made him feel uneasy about letting his children walk around with him.
He was also upset to see some traders leaving the fish in open containers on the floor.
“As it is, the stalls are already flooded with smelly water. If this water should get mixed in with the fish, isn’t that unhygienic?” Mohd Yusof asked.
The proper way would be to place the seafood on raised platforms, which would also make it easier for customers to make their selections, he said.
Little cleaning done
Housewife Nor Azian Abdul Ghani, 62, said more should be done to improve cleanliness at the market.
“I have been coming to this market since it began operating in 1997. I seldom see any cleaners at work,” said Nor Azian.
During a walkabout, StarMetro observed that the drains in Block B had cobwebs growing at the gratings of scupper drains, a sign that they had not been cleaned for weeks.
The team also found faecal matter like birds and other animal droppings on the second floor where many of the stalls were empty.
At the pork section in Block D, where only three out of 10 stalls were operating, thick layers of dust were seen on empty table tops.
Skeletal remains of fish were also found on the floor together with rats’ droppings.
Accounts assistant Amirul Harith, 25, said the general areas should be mopped and given a regular wiping at the very least.
“The cheap rentals paid by the traders cannot be used as an excuse, as wet markets are public facilities which are sustained by money from ratepayers,” he said
Visitors are also questioning why the stalls at the upstairs section of the market have been left empty for years and no planning or effort has been carried out to make better use of the space.
“Why is there no effort made to attract more tenants as traders? As it is, even the local council has an abandoned office upstairs,” they pointed out.
Klang Market Stalls Holders Association chairman Ng Soo Keong, 35, who currently represents the 359 traders operating here, said it was disappointing that the local council was not able to provide the people who work at the market with the most basic necessity, which is sufficient toilets.
More than a dozen cubicles within the complex are out of order.
What is left are the public toilets outside the complex where users have to pay to use them.
One is located at the ground floor of Block A. Another is at the entrance of Block B. Entry is 50sen per entry.
There are only six cubicles each at the male and female toilets to serve the traders and their workers. Outsiders are also using this facility.
“As so many people use this facility, cleaning of the public toilets should be carried out on an hourly basis as the local council has imposed an entry fee,” said Ng.
Trader Zainuril Mohamed, 56, who has been operating his stall in Block B since 1997, said it should be taken into consideration that operating hours, which begin as early as 4am daily, are at least nine hours long.
“Many of us have adjusted our bodies to refrain from taking too many toilet breaks due to the inconvenience. In the long run, this is not good for our health,” said Zainuril.
Another trader, Kosan Dollah, 64, is not as lucky. Due to his diabetes, he needs to go to the toilet just about every hour.
“I am lucky that the fee collector sometimes lets me in free. If not, just the toilet trips alone will put a dent on my daily expenses,” said Kosan.
Ceiling of mould
Another area of concern is the chicken and fish section in Block B where green mould has grown all over the ceiling.
In addition to health concerns, traders are worried that this can weaken the ceiling structure as right above this floor are several units of cold rooms.
Should this part of the structure give way, especially during operating hours, the results will be catastrophic.
Over in Block C at a new section completed about a year ago, traders in the fish section have complained about water ponding at their stalls.
During work, stall operators have to wear Wellington boots to protect their feet from smelly fish water that can come up to 2.5cm deep.
The stalls are at a lower level than the walkways. As the floor has sunk, water is pooling and not going into the drain. To disperse the water, it has to be manually swept down the drain.
When contacted, Klang Municipal Council (MPK) Market Management and Small Traders Department director Azhar Samsudin, 49, urged market traders to cooperate with the local council to maintain cleanliness and hygiene.
“We have gotong-royong activity every month. We hope that more traders will take part in these clean-up operations,” he said.
Another case in point, he said, was to not block drains with containers or other objects that could impede cleaning.
Regarding the out-of-order toilets, Azhar assured that they would be repaired soon.
“MPK’s Engineering Department is looking at several solutions at the moment. For a start, the toilet upstairs by the food court in Block A is already repaired,” he said.
According to MPK environment health officer Mohamad Shukri Abd Majid, 55, the cleaning company D’rizz Resources, is in charge of washing the toilets three times daily.
It is also responsible for keeping the market’s drains and general areas clean, he said.
The contractor is paid RM15,000 a month to do the job and the contract was dated from November 2022, he added.
Following public complaints, Azhar said the contractor would be asked to do a better job.
“Should the contractor fail to comply, payment will be deducted.”
He said renovation was done to level the market floor and change the table tops of the fruit section at Block B in 2019.
Two years ago, the whole complex received a new coat of paint.
New toilets soon
The building of new toilets is also being planned.
“We are locating them near Block C. This structure was built by LRT Shah Alam Line (LRT3), so it is part of their assets.
“The full handover is expected to take place by July 2024, so construction of the new toilets will only take place after,” said Azhar.
When contacted, a spokesperson from LRT3 said rectification works to address flooding issues in Block C would be carried out after the completion of the Pasar Besar LRT station.
“We will act on MPK’s directive based on feedback from the traders,” said the spokesperson.
As for the mould on the ceiling at the fish section, condensation from the cold rooms had been identified as the cause.
The cold rooms are owned by the National Fishermen’s Association (Nekmat) that rent the facility to traders.
Aliff Haziq Zakaria, 31, who is Nekmat’s project manager for Pasar Besar Meru, said polyurethane injections will be used to seal any existing leaks.
“We have waterproofed the floor with epoxy before but it has since given way, so we will have to redo this.
“It will take time as we will require our tenants to remove their items from the cold rooms first. We estimate that work should be able to start in a few days,” said Aliff.
As Klang will soon become Selangor’s fourth city after Shah Alam, Petaling Jaya and Subang Jaya, technician Izdihar Jaafar, 50, a Meru resident who comes to the market regularly for food supply, said it was about time this market be upgraded to reflect Klang’s future city status.
“The first thing that needs to be improved is hygiene and cleanliness. The departments will need to sit down and plan. Enforcement also needs to be strict,” he said.
According to MPK assistant environmental health officer Mohd Firdaus Abu Bakar, 37, the local council had carried out 47 confiscations and issued 29 compounds from January 2023 up till October for offences involving illegal foreign workers and overstepping of trading boundaries.
Monthly rental rates at Pasar Besar Meru are between RM180 and RM600.