Public toilets face another revolution
Few people in China expect that behind those doors marked "Ladies" or "Gentlemen" there will be a gleaming mirror, soft music and a pleasing fragrance.
Most hope only for a clean place with some water.
A new standard for design and construction of city public toilets will soon be released.
Zhang Yue, a senior official with the Ministry of Construction unveiled the plan during the 4th World Toilet Summit, which opened yesterday in Beijing.
Not only will a new classification method be introduced, but more detailed and higher requirements will be created for public toilets.
At the same time, China is seeking more hygienic and environmentally-friendly toilets.
"We will focus on developing the technologies and products that save water and energy," Zhang said.
Dry and recycled water flush toilets are both viable options.
Infrared sensors to control water flows in toilets and basins are also recommended.
China still has to reduce the size of water tanks, said Jack Sim, founder of the World Toilet Organization.
Most tanks use about 11 litres of water in average, while Sim suggested cutting that down to the more common three-litre tanks used around the world.
Another challenge is to improve the waste treatment capacity.
Currently about 45 per cent of the waste from domestic public toilets cannot be disposed through underground waste water pipes.
And the country does not have enough treatment plants, said Tao Hua, vice-president of the China Association of Urban Environmental Sanitation.
Last year, more than 30 million tons of excrement and urine that could not be disposed through pipes was collected and transported in China. Only 25 million tons were finally disposed properly.
"An important goal is to build more ecological toilets," said Liang Guangsheng, director of the Beijing Municipal Administration Commission.
In the last two years, Beijing has built nine waste treatment plants, bringing the number to 11. The latest one is in Haidian District, with a daily handling capacity of 800 tons.
As the host for the 2008 Olympics, Beijing will pour more money into lavatory renovation and reform in the next three years. And each year it will renovate 400 public toilets.
"The focus will be the 30 historic and cultural protection areas in the city's south and the hutong areas," Liang said.
By 2008, the city is expected to have more than 3,700 high-quality public lavatories, said Liang.
The country's lavatory reform is also extending to rural areas and special groups.
Methane toilets, double-vat funnel type toilets and double-grid pattern toilets are being introduced in different rural areas.
"We are exploring some lower-cost types of toilets that can be accepted by rural people and are environmentally friendly," said Tao.