Public go potty over ministry's plan to use flies to measure toilet health

Users thumb their noses at ministry's proposal to measure a restroom's smell status

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 February, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 February, 2013, 5:21am

The public was far from abuzz with praise yesterday for draft Ministry of Health guidelines for improving the mainland's notoriously awful public toilets, whose cleanliness will be gauged in part by the numbers of flies they attract.

According to the draft released on Thursday for public feedback, no more than one fly per square metre will be allowed in toilets inside buildings, while free-standing facilities will be allowed no more than three flies per square metre.

No mention was made of how fly numbers would actually be monitored.

Not surprisingly, odour will be another benchmark of cleanliness, and toilets will judged on a sliding scale of olfactory offensiveness from "scentless" and "little" to "distinct" and "super smelly".

The ministry said the public and local government should submit opinions on the draft regulations by the end of March.

It was not clear when the regulations will be formally implemented, but some local governments implemented their own toilet hygiene standards last year in lieu of a formal nationwide policy.

Beijing, which introduced new guidelines in May, aims for an ambitious two-fly limit on public toilets. But in Nanchang , capital of Jiangxi , the limit is three, while the former imperial capital of Nanjing in Jiangsu tolerates five flies per square metre. Meanwhile, in southernmost Hainan , famous for the density of flies in its tropical climate, health officials have adopted a zero-tolerance stand on the pesky insects, Shanghai-based Dragon Television reports.

Mainland media outlets voiced different opinions on the new standards.

A commentary in the Beijing Times said management of public toilets should not get bogged down in relatively minor details like fly numbers, but apply the standards in the greater scheme of urban health. Officials from the Wuhan urban management bureau in Hubei told the Wuhan Evening News it would not be following any fly number index as it was "too difficult to implement".

Internet users thumbed their noses en masse at the "impractical" and "silly" fly standards.

"Will our government create job positions to count flies?" one user wrote on Sina.com "I suggest every public toilet sets up one position to hire a person who is adept at capturing them."

One user even said the health ministry would do better to introduce a "birth-control policy" for flies.

Some users asked why the ministry had only targeted flies in public toilets.

"I hate mosquitoes and cockroaches so much, why doesn't the ministry count them too?" one user asked.