Yunnan's economy depends largely on tourism. Millions visit on an annual basis and every year record numbers of vacationers, both foreign and domestic, flood into the province. The diversity of cultures and gorgeous landscapes draw people in, but an all too common comment when visitors leave is something along the lines of "What is that matter with Yunnan's toilets?"
Up for special derision have been bathrooms on the ever-growing network of highways criss-crossing the province. Often little more than short cinderblock walls surrounding open pits, rest stop toilets, more often than not, are foul smelling troughs of nastiness. Provincial planners have finally decided such circumstances are unacceptable and earmarked 90 million yuan (US$14.4 million) to rectify the situation.
Beginning this year, the "Yunnan Tourism Toilet Rebuilding Plan" will continue through 2017. Each year, 30 million yuan is planned to be spent on constructing new bathrooms or renovating existing ones, mostly along highways. All told, more than 500 public toilets will either be newly built or revamped.
Yunnan is apparently not the only province with such problems, as the National Tourism Bureau has singled out 33,500 bathrooms nationwide that need such attention. Much of the funding for the upgrades in Yunnan will come from national coffers in an effort to "raise standards to A-grade" levels.
According to multiple media reports, Yunnan has perhaps the country's most acute version of this problem, wherein:
Toilets for tourists in the province are too small, insufficient in number, often incompletely installed, located in unreasonable places, managed in a backward manner, are dirty, chaotic, with conditions that often lead to tourist complaints which [negatively] affect Yunnan's overall image.
Observations such as this do not only come from tourists who visit the province. Three years ago, then-governor Li Jiheng (李纪恒) deemed Yunnan's public restrooms the worst in China. He also somewhat graphically related a story in which after using a highway bathroom in Mengzi (蒙自), the stink of the place remained in his clothes for hours afterward while he attended government meetings.
Hopefully the "Yunnan Tourism Toilet Rebuilding Plan" will follow in the footsteps of a similar, and quite successful, public bathroom remediation program started in Kunming in 2012. That effort was designed to update all communal toilets in the Spring City and bring them up to new standardized codes of sanitation. Spruced up toilets in Kunming are now easily recognizable by their distinctive green and white candy-striped façades.
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