Ho Chi Minh City is offering private investors the chance to advertise on 112 public toilets--so long as they're willing to fund and staff them.
A statement from HCMC government said the city has only a few public toilets and most of them are of poor quality.
Proper toilets remained largely unavailable for public park-goers throughout the city, Tuoi Tre cited the center as saying.
Even visitors to September 23rd, which crosses the heart of District 1, struggled to find facilities until a clean public toilet was built there this year.
“Park toilets charge VND2,000 (around 10 US cents), but they're very bad,” said Nguyen Van Hao, a college student.
“You usually end up with a toilet that doesn't flush without toilet paper,” Hao told Tuoi Tre.
Do Thi Tam, who lives near Van Lang Park in District 5, said the toilet there is “stinky and messy.”
“Many users have to wear a face mask [before going in],” Tam said.
That’s still better than the April 30th Park outside the Notre Dame Cathedral, which is crowded with people every evening, especially on weekends and holidays.
The park has no toilet.
People have to walk around 300 meters to the municipal Youth Culture House whenever nature calls.
The Mien Dong, Mien Tay, and An Suong Bus Terminals, which ferry passengers between the city and destinations all over the country, don't have enough toilets to serve the tens of thousands of people who pass through their doors each day.
An employee at the Mien Dong Terminal in Binh Thanh District said long lines back up at the toilet entrances during peak travel times.
Several passengers and xe om drivers at the station pee outdoors to save themselves the wait and the fee of 10 to 20 US cents.
As a result, the station's outer wall on Dinh Bo Linh Street doesn't smell too good.
Relief around the corner
The HCMC Transport Department plans to replicate the ten public toilets it opened in the city center in outlying districts, this year.
Sacombank invested in the toilets and is paying their for their sanitation and janitorial upkeep in exchange for the right to install ATMs.
Sacombank installed ATM booths in a toilet it put money into and operates outside Le Van Tam Park on Dien Bien Phu Street, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thuy Vi
Each 60 square meter toilet was built for between VND800 million and VND1 billion (US$37,600-47,000).
The bank is not allowed to put up advertisements per se around the toilet but social campaigns under its name are acceptable. For instance, Sacombank has run several environmental awareness slogans around its toilets in Le Van Tam Park in District 3.
Most locals welcome the new facilities, the department said.
They said the city needs around 1,000 public toilets, including several hundred in the downtown.
The department noted that subsequent designs will have to be more accommodating of the disabled (e.g. braille signage and wheelchair ramps).
They also noted that poor security has resulted in vandalism and theft.
A representative from a HCMC advertisement company said investors won't be interested in the offer unless the toilets face crowded streets and guarantee exposure to their ads.
The city government will have to offer better incentives to businesses if it expects them to build toilets in tucked away locations, the rep said.