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Shanghai prepares for 2010 Expo with facelift to public toilets

2009. 2 May

( Shanghai is busy getting itself ready to welcome the world to the 2010 Expo, and authorities are leaving no stone unturned -- even the loos are getting a facelift.

Dirty, smelly and out-of-order -- these are the common complaints about Shanghai's public toilets. But these are all set to change

The city's urban management bureau will spend more than US$14 million to refit, renovate, and build more than 5200 public toilets.

They will cater to the 70 million people expected to visit the Shanghai World Expo next year.

Han Rongyu, Deputy Section Chief, Shanghai Environment Sanitation Management Department, said, "We will also have some improvements inside the toilets. For example we will have natural lighting, energy-saving materials, better ventilation and even some deodorising equipments. "

More than 300 new toilets will be built within the expo site and another 200 around the vicinity. Some toilets will also offer medicine and sewing kits.

Currently, these toilets cost about 15 US cents to use, but come next year, they will be free of charge.

One member of the public said: "I think it is ok to charge a reasonable fee but at the same time we can't neglect management."

Another said: "Usually when it is free, there might be some management chaos. So they should put in more effort to educate the public."

However, authorities admit that they will need to improve security features to prevent abuse.

Mr Han said: "From the management perspective, we have the obligation to advocate and educate our users while we continue to do our daily work. We hope that through our efforts in recent years, we can bring the construction and management of Shanghai's toilets to a new level."

A member of the public said: "Yes I've been (to the public toilet) and I don't think the sanitation of the place is good. For example, there is no circulating water and you pay RMB 0.50 (S$0.10) for one or two sheets of toilet paper and nothing else."

Chinese toilets have endured a poor reputation among foreigners for many years. Most public toilets are squat-style instead of the sit-down type. And to avoid blockage of the system, users have to throw their dirty papers into a trash bin instead of the cistern. Although most locals know this but many foreigners do not and as a result, it can cause clogging of the loo.

So to make the trip to the toilets nicer, authorities say signs in Chinese and English will be put up.