Bounty on flies sets central China city buzzing

Updated: 2007-07-10 17:16

LUOYANG -- The authorities in a central China city have set a bounty on dead flies in a bid to clean up their image and promote public hygiene.

But critics have swatted down the move, questioning the benefits of paying 0.5 yuan (seven US cents) per insect turned in at the Xigong district office of Luoyang city, Henan Province.

Xigong District paid more than 1,000 yuan (US$125) for about 2,000 dead flies on July 1, the day it launched the bounty, with the aim to encourage cleanliness in residential areas.

"I and colleagues believe it's the best way to push residents to do more for their living environment," said Hu Guisheng, the office chief, adding it had proved effective with the district's 390,000 residents.

The payment scheme is the first of its kind in Luoyang, a medium-sized city of 1.55 million people, which is striving to earn the title of "state-level hygienic city".

The "State Hygienic City Standard", issued in 2005, has ten criteria for the award, including the prevention and treatment of disease-transmitting lifeforms, which requires hygienic cities to effectively control pests like rats, mosquitoes, flies and blackbeetles.

The Xigong District office has set up cash desks with signs urging everyone to "participate in the campaign against mosquitoes and flies" at the entrances to six residential compounds. The office staff have been busy in counting dead flies and giving out cash.

A passerby surnamed Ge was attracted by the red board at a compound. "I couldn't believe anyone was willing to buy such disgusting things," said Ge, who admitted his compound seemed to have fewer flies since the campaign was launched.

"I support the move," said Ge.

However, not everyone agreed. A shopkeeper criticized the campaign, calling it an attention-seeking gimmick.

"It is a typical act of paying for an image, in this case the state-designated hygienic city title," said the shopkeeper who would not give his name.

The bounty has sparked an on-line debate. An Internet user named "Jiejiaguitian" said that although the office had good intentions, the action itself had made the district look like a laughing stock.

"The key point is the government should encourage residents to clean up the environment so that no flies can live there, instead of spending money on dead flies," wrote "Jiejiaguitian".

Hu maintained the district was working for the common good: "It is meant to draw attention, but what's wrong with that? The money is being spent properly."

However, he would not reveal how his colleagues would dispose of the 2,000 dead flies, which were stored in the district office health department room.

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