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China: Around The Nation

Chinese cities weigh street dust in cleanliness drive

Cleaners risk losing their jobs if more than a specified amount of dust is found within a square metre on streets

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 April, 2017, 2:36pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 April, 2017, 2:36pm

The cleanliness of streets in a Chinese city is now being weighed – literally – by how much dust there is.

Street cleaners in Xian, the capital of Shaanxi province, have been told to keep the level of dust on the road below certain quotas, or face fines and possible termination, the China News Service reported.

The government’s cleaning standards – rolled out in a trial scheme in early February – dictate that dust on the street not exceed 5 grams, 10 grams, 15 grams, or 20 grams per square metre depending on the street, which are classified under four categories based on congestion and the urban environment.

“The new road cleanliness standards make the evaluation process more intuitive, increases the quality of cleaning, and streamlines cleaning operations,” Lan Yougang, director of sanitation for the city’s Baishulin Residential District, was quoted as saying.

He added that roads have gotten noticeably cleaner since the standards were imposed nearly two months ago.

Inspectors use brushes to sweep up debris and dust in a random one square metre area on the street, and weigh the dust on an electronic scale. They will do this in three areas on the same street, and assess the median weight against official requirements.

If cleaning workers do not meet the standards, they will be fined 100 yuan (US$14.50, HK$113) the first two times, and sacked after the third, according to the People’s Daily.

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Local street cleaner Wang Guanhai, 62, frequently has to work overtime to meet the new standards.

“Now every day I have to sweep at least four or five times, waking up at 4am and working until around 6pm,” he told the China News Service.

Local resident Wang Le told the paper she hoped the measures would make the city’s streets cleaner, but said the standards were harsh.

“It was the first time I’ve seen dust being weighed on an electronic scale,” she said.

Outside of Xian, places such as Shandong, Hebei, Chongqing have similar dust requirement provisions.

But many online users in China have denounced the provisions as unnecessarily meticulous, which some say are characteristic of top-down rule in the communist country.

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“Leaders move their mouths, and workers break their legs to execute it,” one top comment read.

“Paying so much attention to the cleaning workers, why don’t they pay more attention to some officials?” another said.

“Please first raise the salaries for these cleaning workers,” a user wrote.