Thursday, May 1, 2014

Petaling Street’s dirty condition turning many away

Published: Friday May 2, 2014 MYT 7:37:00 AM
Updated: Friday May 2, 2014 MYT 8:59:10 AM

Petaling Street's dirty condition turning many away

Maintenance needed: Visitors to Kuala Lumpur's iconic Petaling Street complain of dirty surroundings, rat-infested alleys and overflowing garbage bins. — Photos by CHAN TAK KONG
Maintenance needed: Visitors to Kuala Lumpur's iconic Petaling Street complain of dirty surroundings, rat-infested alleys and overflowing garbage bins. — Photos by CHAN TAK KONG


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FAMOUS Petaling Street is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. 

Over the decades the street has transformed into a huge market selling many types of merchandise and is a food paradise. 

However, it is increasingly apparent that Petaling Street seems to have lost its lustre as a top tourist draw.

It is not uncommon for diners to see rats scurrying past drains and alleys when tucking into the dishes the area is famous for. 

The rodents are so "well fed" that some visitors have described them as bigger than a cat.

The drains are in a horrible state too, with grease and garbage trapped inside. 

The problem is compounded by the wet market's overflowing garbage bins, which are placed right at its entrance.
Children on a cultural walk through the street talking to some of the residents.
Children on a cultural walk through the street talking to some of the residents.
 
Lost lustre
The situation is worrying as Petaling Street is part of the DBKL Heritage Trail, which is being established alongside beautification efforts under the River of Life project. 
In recent years, NGOs involved in heritage conservation have also been organising cultural walks and food tours around this old part of Kuala Lumpur but cleanliness issues and poor maintenance are hampering plans to develop this tourist destination further. 

"Petaling Street has lost its appeal," said Yong Boo Ying, in her 60s, who used to work in the area. 

"I come here once in a while to attend activities organised by my clan association and visit some old friends, but frankly, it is a headache every time I am here. 

"Apart from the horrendous traffic, this area is really filthy. 

"Frankly, I do not have the appetite to eat here, although I must say the dishes prepared by the old-timers are still authentic. 

"Who would want to eat next to rat-infested drains and rubbish circled by flies?" she asked.

Yong feels that the traders' couldn't-care-less attitude is to blame for the area's poor hygiene. 

"On one hand we see some people trying to make Petaling Street a better place by restoring old shophouses and establishing businesses that enhance the area's character, but people here are not bothered about keeping their surroundings clean," she added. 

A traveller from Singapore, Hor Voon Seng, 39, said the cleanliness of Petaling Street left a lot to be desired.

"While the area has its old-world charm and nice food, I just could not turn a blind eye to the dirty corners and back lanes. 

"Something has to be done so that this place will not lose its appeal," he said. 

A shop operator in Jalan Sultan, who wished to be known only as Chong, said it was difficult for tenants and residents to keep public areas such as back alleys and pedestrian walkways clean. 

"We hope the authorities can play a more effective role especially in cleaning up the clogged drains that have caused a lot of hygiene problems in the area," he said. 
 
Momentous milestone
Stakeholders acknowledge that more needs to be done in this world-famous location, especially since it is marking its 100th anniversary in June. 
Kuala Lumpur Hawkers and Petty Traders Association chairman Datuk Ang Say Tee blamed the situation on an illegal market run by immigrants in Jalan Sultan. 

"They are the main culprits as the legitimate traders always make it a point to clean up the mess they leave behind as they have attended cleanliness courses organised by our association and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) over the past few years. 

"But it is a different story with the immigrants' market," he said. 

According to him, the market that operates from 3am to 10am daily, only had about 40 stalls when it started three years ago. 

Now, the market selling mostly used goods, has a whopping 300 stalls that attract hordes of shoppers.

He added the association had brought the matter up with DBKL on a few occasions but nothing seems to have been done.

An earlier report quoted a DBKL spokesman saying the unlicensed market was allowed to carry on as they had not received any complaints. 

On the area's cleanliness, Ang said the association had attended three meetings with DBKL on the matter. Other agencies including Alam Flora, hotels, traders and establishments in the area have been roped in to tackle the problem. 

He said a major gotong-royong would be held before the 100th anniversary celebration, with a grand banquet planned right in Petaling Street. 

"Traders' awareness on cleanliness has improved over the past few years following efforts by the association and DBKL to educate them. 

"We have been holding gotong-royong for the past 10 years, two to three times annually," Ang said, adding similar efforts were taking place in Bukit Bintang.

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