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Saturday, November 06, 2004

Cleaning up China's Potties for the Olympics

As any foreigner visiting or living in China would say, it's about time.

Toilet Summit Puts Stinky Restrooms in Focus

Fri Nov 5,11:15 AM ET Oddly Enough - Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) - China's capital is getting new stadiums, new subways and new greenery.

Now, with preparations for the 2008 Beijing Olympics well underway, attention is turning to a less grand but no less important bit of infrastructure: the state of the city's toilets.

China, flushed with pride over its booming economy and successful Olympic bid, will add another feather to its cap when it plays host to the fourth annual World Toilet Summit, to kick off later this month. "We are quickening the pace of toilet construction and the international conference is being held at a time China has already realized unprecedented achievements," Yu Debin, deputy director of Beijing's Bureau of Tourism told reporters on Friday.

Beijing is known for its imperial parks and ancient temples, but along with sites like the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace the city's toilets have gained notoriety in their own right, known more for stink than sanitation.

Most of China's public toilets are squat-style pits with no running water, toilet paper or hand washing facilities.

Officials aim to use the summit to help change that, with workshops on such topics as "Toilet Management and Hygiene," "Energy-Saving Measures" and "The Humanized Toilet."
Not to be outdone, nearby Tianjin municipality has launched a "Toilet Renovation Project," state media reported, which will aim to renovate one million local latrines and bring flushing, indoor comfort to rural residents.

But despite offers of subsidies, officials said it would not be easy to persuade villagers, who associate latrines with stink and filth that should not be allowed inside their houses.

read the rest
I'm glad something like the Olympics has come along to draw official attention to the condition of bathrooms in the Emperor's city and hopefully the rest of China. Certainly one of the most pungent culture shocks greeting a westerner who comes to China to live or visit is the toilets...unless a visitor puddle-jumps from one western style hotel to another. Using "squatters," even those which flush, is an, uh, learning curve. Even when bathrooms are regularly maintained, it is difficult to keep them sanitary with old and faulty plumbing. Toilet paper, when used, is not supposed to be flushed, but put in an uncovered wastebasket, where the overflowing collection of it greets the customer. Toilet paper is often not supplied in the stalls, so everyone carries little packets of tissue with them so they don't get caught without.

In America the health codes require a restaurant employee to wash their hands with hot water and soap after using the w.c. In China, if there is a sink for hand-washing in the w.c. there is no hot water although since the SARS outbreak, I do find that more bathrooms offer soap.

China can deploy a virtual army of workers to quickly master the task of cleaning up and modernizing public toilets. It will be a much better place to visit and live afterwards. As of now, the typical urban Chinese toilet is about on a par with a foul barroom john in America. I've always wondered why this wasn't more of a development priority. Beijing is a wonderful city to visit or live in, despite the pollution and traffic. I'm looking forward to updated clean bathrooms.

// posted by Ellen @  20:37   //Permalink// 
Ellen says hey
Mainer, New Yawka, Beijinger, Californian, points between. News, views and ballyhoos that piqued my interest and caused me to sigh, cry, chuckle, groan or throw something.

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