Yunnan governor Li Jiheng (李纪恒) voiced his concern over the cleanliness of the province's roadside restrooms at a government meeting earlier this week. Using an unusually critical tone, Li characterized the conditions of highway gas station bathrooms as filthy and unsanitary.
Li made the comments in Mengzi (蒙自), where he was attending a conference regarding rural development. His remarks, which appeared to be off the cuff, included the statement: "Hygiene levels in the bathrooms along Yunnan's highways are the worst in the entire country."
The governor then related a personal anecdote about traveling by car in the province. Li said he had stopped to use a public toilet while on a trip and was horrified when the smell of the restroom clung to his clothes for hours after he had departed.
Li went on to describe many highway bathrooms as unhealthy and malodorous. He also said the attitudes of bathroom cleaning workers were often, perhaps unsurprisingly, "not good".
That roadside restrooms in Yunnan would come under criticism will not be shocking to anyone who has travelled the province by bicycle, bus or car. Facilities are often makeshift affairs unconnected to sewer lines or running water. Some are no more than open pits lined by small walls.
In response to the governor's remarks the provincial government has earmarked 500 million yuan (US$81 million) over the next four years for rural sewer construction. The money will be used to match funds raised locally to build wastewater disposal systems.
The move appears to echo a public bathroom remediation program started last year in Kunming. Beginning November 2012, all public bathrooms in the Spring City were to undergo renovations to bring them up to new standardized codes of sanitation.
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