Best known as "the most polluted place on earth" and having "the worst air pollution of of China", the city of Linfen in North China's Shanxi province finally has something to boast of that is much cleaner than most of its counterparts in China : the public toilet.
The Linfen City with an urban area of 37 square kilometers and a population of 600,000 had only 12 public toilets before the 2008 initiative carried out by local government with an aim to “build a city of convenience to improve people’s living environment”.
Since 2008, the city government has invested more than 50 million yuan ($8.03 million) in building more than 160 luxury public toilets, among which 40 are classified as "five star toilets" and 12 are classified as "four star toilets". Some of the luxury toilets were designed like the Imperial Palace, ancient city wall, classic style pavillion, and Bird's Nest.
In 2010, the project of Linfen’s construction of public toilets won the China Habitat Environment Practice Prize. In 2011, the Linfen public toilet project was promoted comprehensively intwelve cities in Shanxi province. The World Toilet Organization also introduced the project to its representatives from 30 countries.
In 2012, the Linfen public toilet project was awarded "China's Environmental Sanitation Industry Innovation Prize". Also in the year of 2012, Linfen was awarded by Dubai Municipality as winner of 9th cycle of Dubai International Award for Best Practices for these public toilets because "the toilets meet National Health standards, incorporate cultural and environmental concepts and establish new standards for public toilets".
Meanwhile the public toilets of Linfen have become tourist spots in Linfen in addition to its historical relics.
Apart from the high cost in constructing the luxury toilets, the Linfen city also spends 3 million yuan every year managing the toilets.
Chinese public opinions to the luxury public toilets of Linfen appear to be divided. While some praise the city has solved the problem of urbanites to find a public toilet, improved the toilet environment, enhance the city image, others argue that what the urbanites need most are economical and practical public toilets instead of the luxury ones that cost much more.