- By Lokethar
The Yangon City Development Committee (YCDC) and private construction companies have contributed much to the development of the city. We see grand hotels, condominiums, apartments, houses, department stores, modern shopping complexes with parking facilities, etc., all over the city. There are some beautiful and well maintained ‘green areas’ as well. No doubt, they have contributed to enhancing the image of Yangon City. The ‘household market floors’ at the department stores and shopping complexes, usually located on the ground level or the basement, are well stocked with meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits and other provisions. They are packed and stored well and could be purchased at reasonable prices. The ‘food floors’, at the department stores and shopping complexes, usually located in the upper floors accessible by lifts and/or escalators, have clean and decent shops serving wholesome and affordable food of many different varieties to suit all tastes and pockets. Both the market and food floors are well patronized every day by many people.
However, it seems that many more people go to the ordinary markets to buy their daily kitchen requirements, including fish, poultry and meat. Even with the population explosion in Yangon and an increasing number of people going to the markets, the municipal marketplaces seem not to be fully patronized. Most of them are almost empty by midday. Instead, many people seem to prefer buying from ‘street markets’, occupying the streets and pavements, selling meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, fruits, and even lottery tickets and clothing, some right in the middle of the street. Many of these ‘street markets’ are operating near municipal markets. In fact, many ‘stall holders’ at the municipal markets may be ‘outsourcing’ their wares to the ‘street markets’ which are well patronized.
No doubt, ‘street markets’ are fulfilling the needs of many market goers. However, it seems ‘street market’ sellers are unaware of the rights of street users, and the unhealthy situation they create with the waste and affluence they generate. Some would say that the street markets are the lively hood of the sellers. Nevertheless, breaking the law should not be condoned. Not only that, the crowded ‘street markets’ would greatly hinder evacuation of the residents of the buildings lining the street, in the event of a fire or earthquake, thus endangering innocent citizens including the ‘street market’ sellers themselves. Besides, turning a blind eye to the continued proliferation of ‘street markets’ will only lead to a downward spiraling vicious circle and an alarming increase of ‘street markets.’
For the sake of a more clean, green and healthy Yangon City with less traffic congestion, and for the citizens to use the streets and pavements safely, it is necessary to get the ‘street markets’ into buildings and marketplaces that have all the requirements of a decent marketplace, like clean floors, running water, proper drainage system, proper display stands made of bricks and lined with white impervious tiles for displaying and selling the ‘wet’ goods, adequate spaces between the display stands for the buyers to move around without bumping into each other, proper lighting and ventilation, proper waste disposal systems. The ground floors of the markets should accommodate fish, meat and poultry sellers as well as vegetable and fruit sellers. The ground floor should also have a separate area demarcated for the ‘food stalls’ and should also be made accessible to wheelchair users with ramps for their wheelchair access (as some of the well-designed department stores have). The clothing and miscellaneous goods shops should be accommodated on the upper floors.
Perhaps private developer companies in a Private Public Partnership arrangement with YCDC, could now turn to investing in development and operation of the not too sophisticated, but well-designed, new public marketplaces, of two to three floors, in the more populous townships to relocate the ‘street markets’.