Bird’s eyeview of the Namaka Market

  • 20th November 2020
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The new $5.3m Namaka market complex in Nadi has a serious issue with bird poop from nesting pigeons posing a health hazard and affecting businesses located at the market, complain vendors and operators.

They are fed up with the poop nuisance and claim that the situation has not improved despite numerous complaints to the Nadi Town Council and the Minister for municipal markets.

The market is a huge building – probably about three storeys high – built on an open concept which allows the birds to freely move around at the top, roosting and nesting.

Surprisingly, despite its enormous height, there is only the ground floor in use with a mezzanine concept on the side where the market master’s office is located along with the wing for 40 women vendors. Beyond this, the building is just open space.

The brand new market, built at a questionably high cost, is marred and stained by the ugly, unclean and unsightly collection of pigeon stools on the steel rafters and beams at the top and the floor below.

“The poop nuisance is so bad that there is no knowing when it will fall on the head of a person shopping below, on market produce, or on someone’s food at the market eateries,” say the vendors.

Vendors have complained about the constant droppings and the restaurant owners say they are losing business fast because of it. After all, who would like to eat at a place not knowing when the food on the table is likely to be ‘flavoured’ with bird poop?

Research shows that apart from being an environmental hazard, bird droppings carry bacteria and spread diseases. They attract insects. Dried and powdered poop, when breathed in can create all kinds of respiratory issues and other diseases.

It is a serious health issue. So what is the Nadi Town Council and its Health department doing about this problem?

After the initial complaints, the Council reportedly put up bird spikes and netting two months ago to contain the problem. Obviously this has not worked.  The fact that vendors are still complaining shows that the spikes have not deterred the birds from roosting inside the building. The net used is the fine nylon type used by agriculturalists to keep birds away from their crops.

As the pictures show, the steel mesh used inside the complex catches the bird dribble and makes it even more unclean and unsightly. Besides, most of the bird droppings merely fall through it to the market area below.

No, the Town Council will have to come up with a better solution to control the bird problem. It can use chemical deterrents but faces serious issues with the Environmental and Agricultural departments.

The only immediate remedy it seems is to constantly wash down the complex to keep it clean and free of bird shit. But this is hardly a lasting solution since it will not keep the birds out. Nor is it a practical proposition – just how often do you wash down a huge complex like that to keep it clean, healthy and free of bird poop?

Design issues

Ultimately, the problem lies in the design of the building. One must ask what was the need to build the Namaka Market to such enormously high proportions with the large open space in between the roof and the ground floor all wasted.

Frankly, to me the building looks more like a cross between an aviary and an aircraft hangar.

Did the designers take into account the fact that a produce market would naturally attract birds because of all the food and waste lying around?

How could the Nadi Town Council have approved the design and building plan. Did it consult experts on the designing of municipal markets?  Apparently not.

Construction industry sources say there are other design problems with the building. It uses far too much steel than is necessary. This would have naturally raised the cost of the building and added to the professional fees paid for the project.

Initially, there was a problem with lack of facility for loading and unloading produce at the market.  Has this been fixed?

The market is overpriced and poorly designed. For one, it looks incongruously out of place in its surroundings. It lacks vision and foresight. All that wasted space inside could have been used to develop small retail outlets on the second and third floors for the convenience of the shoppers and to create additional revenue for the Town Council.

Nadi is a tourist town and Namaka has expanded in recent years as an entertainment centre for tourists. It is surprising that its so-called modern market complex fails to make any concession to the town’s major income earner. Any visionary plan would have envisaged a section with appeal for tourists – such as an area for artifacts, curios, coffee shops amid a pleasant tropical setting.

But to put additional floors in now, will require major works which, apart from its enormous cost, will also mean the market will have to be vacated for the duration of the construction work.

Vendors selling by the roadside

Despite the huge gaping structure which reportedly provides some 300 stalls with a lot of space to spare, one still finds vendors selling by the roadside.

Stall holders have complained that while they pay a rental for their stalls, these vendors are able to sell by the roadside without paying anything. They claim there is ample space to accommodate everyone.

This issue was raised with PM Bainimarama when he opened the complex in February this year. His reply was that no-one should stop roadside vendors.

His actual words: “Florists or anyone are allowed to sell their produce by the roadside, they should never be stopped with their businesses.”

Vendors disagree arguing that road-side selling within a municipality is not allowed by law and should not be permitted.

Since then the Nadi Town Council has obviously allowed the roadside selling, even though stalls are available within the market.

Accommodation for women vendors

 It has become a trend for municipal markets to now provide much needed overnight facilities for women vendors who travel over long distances to carry their produce to the market and need to spend the night at the premises.

This facility has been made available by donations from the UN Women under its M4C programme which has been funded mostly through aid money from the Australian government.

Under the scheme, the UN Women have so far contributed $700,000 to the Savusavu market complex. However, work here came to a standstill sometime in March last year. Our inquiries revealed that the matter has now been handed over to FICAC for investigation, because of a suspected scam.

UN Women also donated $600,000 towards accommodation for women vendors at the Nausori Market and $402,000 for similar facilities at the Namaka complex.

Our inquiries have revealed that almost two years later, work on the facility for the Nausori market has not gotten underway. The Council has received part of the funding but highly placed sources say the original plan for the accommodation facility is now under review.

An investigation may be warranted here into the causes for the delay and to determine whether the money so far donated is safe.

The wing at the Namaka market has been completed and provides a 40-bed accommodation for women vendors with toilet, shower and kitchen facilities.

Although the market has been operational since 2019, and was officially opened by Prime Minister Bainimarama in late February this year, the women’s accommodation wing is still not operational.

We noted from media reports that women vendors were delighted to have on-site accommodation as some of them used to travel to the Lautoka market to sleep overnight.

Of what use this facility if it is still not available to them some two years after it was completed – mind boggling, isn’t it?

Judging by the Savusavu, Nausori and Namaka experiences, it seems the UN Women ought to take a more vigilant approach to how their money is being utilized. And whether projects they participate in come through on time and are scam-free.

We have been unable to access anyone at the UN Women’s office in Suva.  Questions emailed to them four days ago have still not been answered. This is absolutely unacceptable. The officials are highly paid international staff and should be readily accessible to answer questions on funds disbursed by them.