Beijing hopes the smelly reputation of its public restrooms will be, well, flushed down the toilet soon. City officials will use the 2004 World Toilet Summit, starting Nov. 17, to showcase efforts to transform the capital's lavatories from foul to fragrant, from crude to cultured.
BEIJING − Beijing hopes the smelly reputation of its public restrooms will be, well, flushed down the toilet soon. City officials will use the 2004 World Toilet Summit, starting Nov. 17, to showcase efforts to transform the capital's lavatories from foul to fragrant, from crude to cultured.
"Toilets represent the level of development of a country, a region," Yu Debin, deputy director of Beijing's Municipal Bureau of Tourism, said Friday at a news conference. "They also represent a region's spiritual and material civilization."
The issue is especially pressing as Chinese leaders try to clean up their capital before the 2008 Olympics.
The three-day summit is expected to attract 150 academics, sanitation experts, toilet designers and environmentalists from 19 countries as far-flung as the United States, Finland, Germany, Japan and Nepal.
Organizers say topics will include the latest toilet technologies, management strategies and self-sustaining commodes. Beijing officials will take delegates on tours of newly built public restrooms and hold a photo exhibition of ongoing efforts.
China's public restrooms -- often little more than open trenches -- have long shocked and disgusted tourists with their stench and lack of soap, toilet paper and other basics.
Public urination by adults and children clad in "split crotch pants" are still a common sight in this crowded city.
The Chinese capital has spent $29 million over the past three years building or renovating 747 restrooms at tourist spots, according to Yu.
"The new toilets will have very practical designs and will meet the needs of the people," said Liang Guangsheng, deputy chairman of the Beijing Municipal Administration Commission.
"We aim to build clean, civilized, energy saving, convenient and environmentally friendly toilets," Liang said. "We also will consider the needs of the old, the young, the weak, the sick and the handicapped."
The city has come up with a rating system of one to four stars for its public facilities.
City spokesmen contacted Friday couldn't give any details of what qualifies a toilet for the top rating but state media has said that the criteria include granite rock floors, remote-sensor flushes, automatic hand-driers, a rest area and piped-in music.
The city government figures show that the capital now has 88 four-star toilets, 161 that qualify for three stars, 312 for two and 110 for one.
The city government plans to spend another $10 million a year on building or renovating 400 bathrooms, Liang said.
The World Toilet Summit, overseen by the Singapore-based World Toilet Organization, is in its fourth year. Previous hosts include Singapore, Seoul and Taipei.
The last day of the summit falls on Nov. 19, World Toilet Day, when organizers say they hope to focus worldwide attention on promoting toilet etiquette.
Source: Associated Press