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'Toilet revolution' cleans up Shandong

By CHENG SI and ZHAO RUIXUE | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-25 08:11

Rural toilets in Zibo, Shandong province, have been renovated and sanitation has been significantly improved. [Photo/Xinhua]

Sanitation in rural areas of Shandong province has been greatly improved through the so-called toilet revolution, the provincial government said.

The incidence of infectious diseases fell by 26.9 percent in 2017 from 2015 levels.

The government noted in a news release that the province started renovating toilets in rural areas in 2014, and said that about 10 million toilets with substandard hygiene had been renovated or rebuilt as of the end of last year. More than 8 billion yuan ($1.2 billion) has been invested so far.

Shan Tihua, Party secretary in Xidan village of Zibo city, remembers how residents opposed the renovations when he began promoting the project in 2015.

"The habit of using traditional pit toilets blocked our plan at the beginning," he said. "It took a long time to persuade narrow-minded villagers, but they finally accepted the proposal after seeing their peers using cleaner toilets."

He said the most common toilet in the village was a square pit with no water for flushing that smelled and attracted flies in the summer.

"Financial subsidies were also key in moving the project forward," Shan said. "Building a new toilet with modern hygiene standards cost about 1,500 yuan in 2015. Every rural household would receive a 1,300-yuan allowance if they joined the project, which was roughly enough to cover the expense."

Sun Meiyun, a senior from Xidan village, appreciated the new toilets.

"The toilet used to be a difficult place to clean up, and the pit toilets even scared my daughter-in-law and grandson," she said. "Now the condition of the toilet is no different from the ones they use in the city."

Most of the 308 households in the village finished renovating their toilets in 2015, according to Shan Tihua.

"We are now endeavoring to improve follow-up services, toilet maintenance and sewage management," Shan said.

Xu Hongshui and his team in Zibo are transforming the waste into organic fertilizer and methane to make the toilet revolution more sustainable.

"We used to collect animal feces and straw to produce fertilizer before 2015," he said. "We began to recycle human waste about three years ago and now we are cooperating with the city's 10,000 households," Xu said.

He said that improper disposal of human or animal waste could damage the soil and water, while it can be properly recycled for fertilizer and gas production for electricity generation, which is environmentally and economically beneficial.

"The annual sales volume of the organic fertilizer we produce can reach 30,000 metric tons, earning us a net profit of about 2 million yuan," Xu said.

He said his company built a 1,500-cubic-meter methane tank in October and plans to build a larger one of 10,000 cubic meters this year to increase marsh gas production.

The toilet revolution in rural areas has received great support from the authorities. A guideline focusing on countryside toilet renovation was released by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development and six other departments in early January.

The guideline said that by 2020, substandard toilets in communities in northern China would be renovated. The city outskirts of central and western areas, are expected to get modern toilets, with human waste properly disposed of or recycled.

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