They complain that only 50 toilets are available for 3,107 shops and rue that they are not maintained well, emitting a permanent stench around the market place.
The sprawling market complex houses 1,809 vegetable shops, 828 fruit shops in two phases and 470 flower shops. But for the hundreds of staff at these shops and their customers, there are only around 50 toilets – it is even worse for women, with only about half a dozen toilets marked exclusively for them. These toilets are not maintained well, emitting an unbearable stench that dissuades most people from using them, say traders.
According to M Thyagarajan, a wholesale tomato trader at the market, the lack of proper sanitation is a major problem they have been facing. There are only limited toilets available for traders and public, and even they are not maintained properly, he said, adding that his customers, mostly women, are particularly affected because of this.
“This place stinks but neither the government authorities nor the agency contracted to maintain it seems to care about the cleanliness. It gets worse during the rainy season, when even us vendors think twice before using them because of the condition. There are no workers allotted to clean the toilets, the traders have to take turns to make arrangements for that,” Thyagarajan said.
It is not just the toilets that raise a stink here; the whole area suffers the same fate due to the poor management of the hundreds of tonnes of organic waste generated here every day, added P Sukumaran, secretary, Koyambedu Vegetables, Fruits and Flowers Merchants Association. He alleged that the cleaning process was not being conducted regularly by the private firm that has been awarded a long-term contract of 12 years.
Adding to their woes, the storm water drain broke twice and was also chocked after waste was dumped into it. “We had to take initiative to repair it. The association members have been taking up such issues with the officials regularly. But there has not been any action to address them,” Sukumaran complained.
However, he agreed that it is not just the officials or private firms that are to be responsible for the present condition – even the traders need to take a share of the blame. “The vendors do not think about their surroundings. They just throw waste vegetables on the way. If they want the market to be cleaner, they should be more sensitive and think how they dispose of their own waste,” added Sukumaran.
The situation worsens during the rains, making it difficult to even walk inside the market premises as was evident when DT Next toured the market after the recent rains. There is water stagnation and waste strewn around. All of this creates an unbearable stench in the blocks housing fruit and vegetable traders. Such is the situation that it does not seem like workers are cleaning the place.
Pankajam R is one of the regular customers who come to the market about twice a week. The advantage is the availability of good quality products at cheaper price. “But it stinks all the time and is very dirty especially when it rains. The pathway is not clean, and the people who come here are at risk of slipping and falling. And because there are not enough toilets for women, we are forced to use the toilets at the bus terminus nearby in the event of any emergency,” she said, adding how the market complex was not where one could visit with the family.
As there is only entrance for both vegetable and fruit blocks, the customers and traders are forced to walk nearly a kilometre from one block to the other. Vendors said they have been constantly asking the officials to create separate entrances for both these blocks. Another concern that they have is the proposal to build new shops at the parking space, which they said would affect the movement of heavy vehicles that bring in the loads to the market.
The associations representing various traders are also sore about the illegal shops set up inside the market. “The former Chief Administrative Officer S Rajendran had maintained the market in a better condition and ensured that there were no illegal shops outside each block. But after he was shunted out, neither the CMDA nor the market management committee has taken any effort to take action against the unauthorised vendors,” said a trader. Speaking to DT Next, S Govindaraj, Chief Administrative Officer, Market Management Committee, said they have appointed a team to clean the garbage and clear the space inside each block, while new machineries would clear the sewage. “Within 15-20 days, the place will be clean. We are in the process of setting up new washrooms for the public and traders. Gradually, we are sorting out the problems faced by vendors and public.”
- No drinking water facility
- Roads not re-laid after Metro Rail work
- Lack of adequate number of toilets
- Very few toilets for women
- Poor sanitation and upkeep
- Damaged storm water drains