India has been undergoing a revolution in toilets since the Swachh Bharat campaign was launched in late 2014, and now the Chinese government is following suit. CityLab reports that the Chinese government has announced a $290 billion investment programme in upgrading the nation’s toilets over the next four years. Although Beijing and other large cities have modern toilet facilities (the last “nightsoil collector”, whose job is was to manually clear out human waste from toilets, stopped working in Beijing in 2000), most of the country still depends on unsanitary toilets. The government’s stated motivation is that new toilets are needed to boost tourism. However, there is a sound public health motivation too, as the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reports that fecal contamination and unsafe drinking accounts for 80 percent of infectious diseases in rural China.
Two stories this week show that toilets can severely impact on your travel plans.
A story in Stuff describes how a ferry from from Wellington on New Zealand’s North Island, to Picton on the South Island was delayed in the departure port for 3 hours while technicians worked to clear a clogged toilet. Eventually, the toilets were unblocked, and a passenger happily declared “The toilet gurgles give me hope”.
On the other side of the world, the Independent reports on a flight from New York to Paris, which had to make an unscheduled stop at Shannon airport in the West of Ireland to allow passengers to use the toilets as the toilets on board had become broken, delaying arrival time by some two hours.
Finally today, a protest that never happened in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Charlotte Observer reports on an incident that bemused and amused neighbours of Mecklenburg County Commissioner Pat Cotham. On the street outside her house, a toilet appeared. This was soon joined by three more identical toilets. There was speculation online that this was a protest against the controversial anti-trans Bathroom Bill in North Carolina and there were plenty of jokes at the expense of the commissioner. The online furore reached the ears of a neighbour of the commissioner who emailed the Observer, stating, “Mystery solved! This is my house! I am remodeling and swapped out my 4 toilets for low flush models.”
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