Opinion / Editorials

Answer call for cleanliness

(China Daily) Updated: 2012-05-28 08:00

Public toilets are not conveniences, they are necessities. So Beijing should be applauded for trying to make these necessities more convenient by trying to improve their cleanliness.

People don't mind using a public toilet as long as it is clean and safe. But by and large, our public toilets are execrable.

For years, the World Toilet Organization, a global, non-profit institution committed to improving and maintaining the cleanliness of public toilets worldwide, has ranked China as the country with the worst public toilets in Asia.

The metropolitan government has raised some eyebrows with its requirement that there should be no more than two flies in a public toilet.

Yet for millions of people living in the older areas of Beijing and hundreds of cities beyond, public amenities are the only toilet facilities available to them. They have no other choice. Surely they have the right to enjoy sanitary washrooms.

While for tourists, who only have to follow their nose to find the nearest public toilet, visiting one is an act of desperation taken in only the direst emergency.

We should value our public toilets. Not only are clean public toilets the symbol of a civilized society, they can also help in the competition to attract tourists.

The 2011 World Toilet Summit in China sent home the message that the key to increasing the number of visitors lies in the availability of clean and efficient public facilities.

Without the necessary improvements to public restrooms, the government risks flushing millions of tourist dollars down those toilets.

So a campaign to clean up the city's public toilets should be wholeheartedly cheered, not sneered at. The effort may restore the country's tarnished image in the provision of public toilets, especially in tourist areas.

But some cities have gone too far, building grandiose facilities to meet people's unavoidable and universal biological need. They have built star-rated toilets like the 120-square-meter five-star one with air conditioners in Chongqing.

These projects raise the concern that they are expensive white elephants.

As long as public toilets are clean, little modern technology is needed as they answer the call of nature.

(China Daily 05/28/2012 page8)

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