On a long walk beneath the elevated highway abutting the Jialing River, one will naturally encounter people settled in varying degrees of formality, with a particularly sharp contrast between the different worlds above and beneath it. Above is the world of ultra-lux highrises with million-kuai views surrounded by cranes and the accompanying rubble of rapid construction.
Beneath the highway, a contextually adjusted version of prosperity hinges upon something as seemingly trivial as access to water that comes out of a PVC pipe off of the road above.
Those who dwell beneath this particular stretch of elevated highway have developed a few methods for off-grid subsistence. For example, water that drips through the cracks in the concrete overhead or flows from plastic drainpipes overhead is collected in buckets and used for drinking, homemade fertilizer production (brewed in a repurposed bathtub, in this case), and irrigating small gardens. The often lush and orderly rows of the vegetable patches beneath the highway stand in contrast to the jumbled nature of the nearby residences which are formed primarily from scavenged construction materials and wedged amidst piles of rubble.
Judging by the clustering of water vessels both around the highway’s few formal drainage pipes and the bases of the support columns upon which rivulets tended to form, there seems to be a potential argument for the design of more formal water outlets into the highway – that is, assuming that urban gardening on unused land is something Chongqing’s city planners desire to promote (perhaps assuming too much). Framing this as the optimal deployment/recycling of resources, does it count as an element of a “smart city” if it is “accidentally smart”? It worked for penicillin, I suppose.