Very soon, residents can apply for road cut permissions online. The Chennai Corporation will develop and test the application, said its Commissioner P.W.C. Davidar on Monday. He said that an analysis of road cut permission process showed that the file passed by 25 – 30 officials before getting the required sanction.

“At times, the file would be going in circles even. We are thinking of how the system can be re-engineered to make it hassle-free. It will be ready in a couple of weeks,” he said speaking at a session on ‘efficient and effective ULBs and Parastatals – Institutional governance framework' at the three-day Municipalika conference that got underway at the Chennai Trade Centre.

Andre Dzikus, Chief, Water and Sanitation Section, UN Habitat, said that though the car-based economy of the 20 century proved successful, it also led to loss of urban and cultural values. “Cities don't have open spaces and malls have emerged as places for social gathering. With an increase in crime rates, more and more gated communities are coming up.”

In this context, a new vision for sustainable urban planning is the need of the hour he said, adding that the old model of mixed zoning would pave the way for vibrant and efficient cities. “Most Indian cities were formed much earlier and their basic fabric is intact. They are not driven by technology and so in 20 years time, Indian cities will perform better than Chinese cities as they are more compact,” he said.

Chetan Vaidya, Director, National Institute of Urban Affairs, said that JNNURM-II, which will begin in September with a funding of 2 lakh crore would have a special scheme for town panchayats. JNNURM – I projects that have not been completed would get time till 2014. Conservation should be about integrating natural heritage into built heritage, said M.G. Devasahayam of Sustain. Questions on if conservation and development can take place simultaneously, how different conservation is from beautification and what goes in building structures that are potentially the heritage of tomorrow, were discussed by conservation activists at another session. Benny Kuriakose, a conservation architect spoke about a sustainable model of tourism that involves the local community, citing Muziris, a tourism project on at an ancient Roman port in Kerala. S.Suresh, State convener, INTACH explained how exploring and excavation of archaeological remains started mainly as a holiday hobby of western powers in India.

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