Beijing tries to make its loos better
In the back streets of the Chinese capital, a new cultural revolution is gathering momentum.
A multi-million dollar renovation of the city's public toilets is under way.
The municipal government announced on Sunday that it would plunge more than 100 million yuan (US$12.1 million) a year into freshening up its loos in time for the city's hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games.
The goal set for this year is to build or rebuild 400 restrooms around the city, said Ma Kangding, an official with the Beijing Municipal Administration Commission.
"The figure is double that of last year, and the amount of investment for the first time has topped 100 million yuan (US$12 million)," said Ma, who is in charge of the project.
The focus of the toilet revolution is the traditional Chinese lanes, or hutongs, where public toilets are often criticized as having no privacy and being basic holes in the ground.
Ma said the new or rebuilt loos should meet standards that require them to have toilet paper, soap, hand dryers and disabled access. .
There are about 2,800 existing public toilets in the hutongs, which is nearly a third of the city's total public conveniences.
The commission says that by 2008, the city will provide 4,700 public toilets and pedestrians will be within an eight-minute walk of one in business areas -- so one every 500 metres.
Li Jun, a press officer with the commission, said that although many public toilets would be demolished in the course of ongoing housing resettlement projects, new public toilets with better sanitary conditions would be built in the new communities.
She said that in 2008, more than 90 per cent of the public toilets in the four downtown districts of Beijing, Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chongwen and Xuanwu districts -- where most of the hutong are concentrated -- will meet the standards.
As well as building and rebuilding public toilets, the commission is also taking steps to make sure there are the right amount for men and women, introduce new kinds of toilet and improve management and service, said Li.
The current dearth of public toilets in the business areas, where buildings are too crowded, has prompted the city to call for business venues to open their toilets to the public to help pedestrians caught short.
Li said a recent survey showed that around 3,000 business venues, including hotels, restaurants, shopping centres, airports, and subway, gas, railway and bus stations, have followed the appeals.