Tech­nol­ogy key to toi­let rev­o­lu­tion in coun­try­side

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHENG SI [email protected]­

China’s “toi­let rev­o­lu­tion” is shift­ing its fo­cus to re­duc­ing the dis­par­ity in san­i­ta­tion con­di­tions be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas, aim­ing to re­duce in­fec­tious dis­eases and boost the de­vel­op­ment of ru­ral tourism, a top tourism of­fi­cial said.

“We started the rev­o­lu­tion with tourist toi­lets. It’s time to chan­nel ef­forts to pro­mote clean toi­lets to pub­lic places and ru­ral fam­i­lies to en­sure res­i­dents a clean and health­ier liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” Li Jin­zao, vice-minister of cul­ture and tourism, said in an in­ter­view with China Daily.

Li said he is con­cerned that peo­ple in the coun­try­side com­monly use pits as toi­lets, with­out flush­ing wa­ter or mod­ern hy­giene equip­ment, which can cause odor and dis­eases as the hu­man waste isn’t prop­erly treated.

A re­port by the Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion in Jan­uary showed that only 17 per­cent of toi­lets in ru­ral ar­eas met mod­ern hy­giene stan­dards as of the end of 2017, caus­ing great en­vi­ron­men­tal and health problems.

Over 80 per­cent of in­fec­tious dis­eases are caused by pol­luted wa­ter and pathogens in hu­man waste that is im­prop­erly treated, ac­cord­ing to a re­port on the “toi­let rev­o­lu­tion” by the for­mer China Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion in 2017. The ad­min­is­tra­tion was merged into the cul­ture and tourism min­istry in March.

The re­port said that the “toi­let rev­o­lu­tion” is meant to cor­rect back­ward san­i­ta­tion con­di­tions in the coun­try­side, which will also greatly change ru­ral res­i­dents’ life­styles.

“It’s a prob­lem of econ­omy and

peo­ple’s con­scious­ness,” Li said. “It has long been a tra­di­tion for ru­ral res­i­dents to use a pit, which can­not be changed in a short time. They are un­aware of the larger costs of dis­ease treat­ment if in­fected by pathogens in un­treated hu­man waste.”

Im­prov­ing san­i­ta­tion con­di­tions in the coun­try­side will also help drive de­vel­op­ment of ru­ral tourism as toi­lets play a key role in in­fra­struc­ture serv­ing tourists, he said.

Cul­ture and tourism min­istry of­fi­cials have said about 22,600 toi­let fa­cil­i­ties with mod­ern hy­giene stan­dards will be built in ru­ral ar­eas in poor fi­nan­cial con­di­tions but rich in tourism re­sources by the end of 2020. Also, mod­ern tech­nolo­gies like cloud com­put­ing will be ap­plied to toi­let man­age­ment.

Li said tech­nol­ogy is im­por­tant in ad­vanc­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. “But it’s quite chal­leng­ing as var­ied en­vi­ron­ments re­quire dif­fer­ent tech­nolo­gies to build toi­lets that are both hy­gienic and eco­log­i­cally friendly, for exam- ple, in con­di­tions with cold tem­per­a­tures or wa­ter short­ages, and in ar­eas with ex­treme poverty.

“It’s not a job solely for the gov­ern­ment but re­quires joint ef­forts by gov­ern­ment and en­ter­prises,” he said.

Shen Yangze, gen­eral man­ager with China Ever­bright Eco­log­i­cal Tech­nolo­gies Co, said they have built 300-plus mod­ern toi­lets with cut­ting-edge tech­nolo­gies for res­i­dents’ use at no cost in Guzhang county, in Hu­nan prov­ince’s Xiangxi Tu­jia and Miao au­ton­o­mous pre­fec­ture. The com­pany has been help­ing with the county’s poverty al­le­vi­a­tion work since 2016.

“We want to give some­thing more prac­ti­cal to poor res­i­dents, which can both im­prove their liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment and help pro­tect na­ture,” he said.

The 300-plus toi­lets, which meet mod­ern hy­giene stan­dards, use wa­ter-free tech­nolo­gies that em­ploy mi­crobes to dis­pose of hu­man waste, and wa­ter ex­tracted from waste can be used to ir­ri­gate farm­land. The eco­log­i­cal toi­lets will be put into use next month, he said.

Hu­nan prov­ince also has pro­vided fi­nan­cial sup­port to help im­prove san­i­ta­tion con­di­tions in its ru­ral ar­eas. Lan­shan county in Yongzhou, for ex­am­ple, has al­lo­cated 20 mil­lion yuan ($2.9 mil­lion) to re­build toi­lets in the coun­try­side. Res­i­dents will­ing to re­place their pit toi­lets with mod­ern, hy­gienic ones with flush­ing wa­ter will re­ceive a gov­ern­ment sub­sidy of 500 yuan, ac­cord­ing to pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment re­port.

“Peo­ple used to shrug when hu­man fe­ces was men­tioned, as it was not worth dis­cussing com­pared with eco­nomic and in­dus­trial de­vel­op­ment,” Li said. “How­ever, noth­ing re­lated to liv­ing stan­dards should be over­looked, in­clud­ing toi­lets, which can turn into a fa­tal prob­lem if not prop­erly han­dled.

“We did achieve progress in im­prov­ing peo­ple’s con­scious­ness, es­pe­cially in the coun­try­side, be­cause toi­lets are rather im­por­tant in­fra­struc­ture to serve trav­el­ers if they want to turn poor vil­lages into travel des­ti­na­tions.”

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