A toilet revolution in China

China is going hi-tech to resolve its chronic problem — few and poorly maintained public toilets. The shortage of clean restrooms is especially hampering China’s tourism industry, which aspires to acquire world class status, and create more jobs. President Xi Jinping’s move echoes India’s focus on ‘Swachh Bharat’, though Beijing undertakes, what is called its “toilet revolution”, from a higher baseline.

China’s ubiquitous smartphone portal WeChat, which performs multiple roles from instant messaging to digital payments, is now pitching in to advance the toilet campaign. Subscribers can use their smartphones, drawing from a cloud computing platform, to find the nearest public toilet within 2 km from their location. The app was launched on November 19 — World Toilet day.

Nearly 3,30,000 toilets can be accessed using the app in 29 provincial regions of China. The vast database used by the app covers a number of public spaces such as parks, universities, shopping malls and fast-food restaurants. Users can also upload toilet locations which have still not featured on the cloud. But China’s toilet revolution has still a long distance to travel. Fresh from a Party Congress, where he pledged to lift all Chinese out of poverty, President Xi has focused on clean toilets as part of this exercise to usher in the country’s “rejuvenation”.

China’s struggle to build clean toilets goes back at least a decade. In 2006, a Taiwanese model, Meng Guangmei, who became a well-known TV presenter, caused national embarrassment if not outrage when she slammed the condition of public toilets, calling them dirty and lacking doors. By the time the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games arrived, there was an announcement that the city planned to build “64 four-star, 197 three-star and 118 one-star toilets at all its major tourist attractions”.

Not more than two flies
The obsession with clean toilets continued. Four years later, Beijing city authorities issued a bizarre guideline that each toilet should not have more than two flies. Seven years after the Olympics, the “toilet revolution” was officially launched, amplified by the display of a model public toilet, which had a television, a vending machine as well as an ATM. A year later, the Beijing municipality announced that the 100 new restrooms with Wi-Fi access would be constructed.....Read more


Source web page:The Hindu




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