People are collecting discarded vegetables and selling them for cheapAt the Kalimati market, hawkers collect vegetables from a refuse pile and bundle them to sell later as fresh produce.
At noon on Monday, the Kalimati vegetable market was largely empty. Over 500 wholesale outlets, which sell a variety of vegetables, had almost packed up for the day. At Kalimati, the rush is in the morning, when traders and shoppers come to pick up vegetables to sell during the day.
But the northern portion of this vegetable market was buzzing with activity. Under a temporary space covered by a corrugated zinc roof, a massive pile of rotten, stale and unsold vegetables was festering. In the hot sun, an unbearable stink rose from the heap, but about a dozen women rooting about among the discarded vegetables didn’t seem to mind.
Even as a man came up to them, his cart piled high with trash and vegetables to throw away, the women continued to search among the brinjals, ladyfingers, radishes, beans, cauliflowers, cabbages, and bitter gourds, selecting ones that didn’t appear bruised or too badly damaged.
Once the women noticed the Post taking pictures and videos, they began to leave the area, with some taking the vegetables they had collected with them. One woman, however, remained behind and spoke to the Post.
Sushila Devi Kodar said that they sell these vegetables by the roadside in Kathmandu at steadily decreasing costs during the day.
“I don’t sell them by weight, but by the handful,” she said. “People happily buy these vegetables because they just want something for cheap.”
Kodar’s prices range from Rs 20 to Rs 50, depending on the quantity. She never tells her customers where these vegetables come from.
As per data from the Kalimati Fruits and Vegetables Market Development Board, every day, the market produces around 16 tonnes of waste in the form of rotten and discarded fruits and vegetables.
“These are illegal acts,” said Manoj Dhital, senior market operational officer at the board, referring to the women selling the scavenged vegetables. “The board is watching for these people.”
However, locals from Bafal and Kalimati areas said that the authorities have not taken any steps to prevent the selling of these unhygienic produce. There is a particularly large congregation of these refuse sellers on the bridge that leads to Bafal from Paropakar.
Doctors say that these kinds of vegetables are unlikely to have much nutritional value and could be harmful to peoples’ health.
“If vegetables collected from such unhygienic places are consumed, there is a risk of ailments like dysentery, typhoid, and hepatitis A or B,” said Dr Sher Bahadur Pun, coordinator of the clinical research unit at the Teku-based Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital.