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Bangabandhu Tunnel: Another Feather in Bangladesh’s Crown

  • Dr. Kazi S. M. Khasrul Alam Quddusi
  • 20th December, 2022 03:52:59 PM
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Bangabandhu Tunnel: Another Feather in Bangladesh’s Crown

Another landmark, after Padma Bridge, is looming large in the horizon of Bangladesh. Yes, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under the Karnaphuli River in Chattogram is going to be partially inaugurated in next January. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced the completion of civil work of the Tunnel’s south tube recently. Opening of the country’s first ever Tunnel, which is also the first underwater road network in South-Asia, will be another great step forward in the country's journey towards sustainable development.

The remarkable success stories of implementation of mega projects under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina deserve kudos as well as gratitude from people from all walks of life. Interestingly, the government took up the Bangabandhu Tunnel project with a view to developing Chattogram as ‘one city, two towns’, in the light of China's Shanghai city where the eastern and western parts are connected in such a manner. That vision is not a distant reality any more.

Admittedly, the tunnel will connect the port city with Anwara upazila on its southern side and, will, thus, enhance the city’s landmass significantly. It has already given rise to a fiesta of development activities on the Southern Chattogram. The project will further advance road communication in the country’s south-eastern region, help Bangladesh get connected with the Asian highway network and enhance facilities for the Chattogram Port as a natural consequence.

Chattogram is the heart of the country’s economy as over sixty per cent of the country’s export and import take place through Chattogram Port. To be candid, however, until 2009, before the takeover of the Sheikh Hasina government, the city received very little attention in terms of infrastructural development. However, the scenario has changed greatly as the Awami League government has been implementing a series of mega projects centring round the port city.

On top of the Bangabandhu Tunnel, Chattogram is experiencing a number of other significant development projects, including Bangabandhu Industrial Park, Bay Terminal in the port, Matarbari power plant hub, deep sea port, and rail line from Chattogram to Cox’s Bazar. Consequently, the greater Chattogram has already turned into a pivotal place for both local and foreign investment. In future, the region will play a more significant role in overall development of our economy.

Buoyed up by the implementation of the development projects and visionary policies, port city will definitely help Bangladesh’s economy reach a great height and, thus, the country will usher in a grand era of advancement. Reportedly, the main tunnel is 3.32 kilometres long. It has two tubes, each 2.45 km long, and has a diameter of 10.80 meters. Each tube will consist of two lanes. The tubes are 12 meters apart from each other.

The Bangabandhu Tunnel is under construction at a cost of around Tk 10,000 crore with the financial support of China, and is the longest underpass at the bottom of the river in Asia. A 3.4 km length of the tunnel is located at the mouth of the Karnaphuli River, and built next to the Chattogram Shah Amanat International Airport, connecting Anwara Upazila, the area also is an industrial hub on the other side of the river.

The tunnel goes under the Karnaphuli at the Patenga Naval Academy point in the port city to a depth of 18m to 31m to Anwara Upazila on the other side of the river. Highlighting the challenges of constructing the tunnel, the project director commented that it is not an ordinary bridge or a road. The government as well as the people hope that with the inauguration of the Bangabandhu Tunnel, life on the two banks of the river will change dramatically.

It can be said without any doubt that there will be better connectivity between the tourist city Cox’s Bazar, southern Chattogram and the rest of the country after the tunnel is opened for use. It will also reduce the number of vehicles using the two bridges over the river. South of the river in Anwara lies in the Korean and Chinese export processing zones, the CUFL factory and Parki Beach. Notably, all routes to Cox's Bazar, Banshkhali and Matarbari power station and deep seaport go through Anwara.

It will be used as an alternative route to Cox's Bazar, Teknaf and Matarbari and northern Chattogram, and, thus, it will play an important role in improving the Asian Highway Network, strengthening connectivity between Bangladesh and neighbouring countries. Moreover, the ongoing mega projects in Chattogram, including Korean EPZ at Anwara, Chinese industrial zone, Matarbari power plant and Matarbari deep-sea port, will enjoy the full benefit of this tunnel.

As implied earlier, in addition to the infrastructural boons, the country's economy will get momentum and tourism, economic activities, trade and commerce in the entire Chattogram region will see a boom. It needs to be mentioned here that China Communication and Construction Company has been constructing the 9.3km tunnel, about 3.4km of which would be under the river.

China Harbor, another Chinese venture, is also involved in building in the economic zone. Along with the construction of the tunnel, the work of setting up the economic zone is also progressing at a great pace. In the economic zone on 760 acres of land, 60 Chinese companies have already offered to invest around one billion USD. A new master plan for Chattogram city will start soon centring the two banks of the Karnaphuli River.

The government has planned to construct a marine drive from Chattogram to Cox's Bazar with the support of the Bangabandhu Tunnel. This will be constructed from Mirsarai to Cox's Bazar and will be very beneficial. The dream project is also expected to significantly reduce traffic congestion on both sides of the river, including the northern and southern parts of Chattogram, and reduce travel time significantly making lives more comfortable and pleasant.

Notably, at least ten large industrial groups and one hundred and fifty businesspeople have already purchased land to establish factories in various sectors. The sectors range from power to petroleum, apparel, shipbuilding, fish processing, steel, cement and oil refinery, on the south bank of the Karnaphuli.

Thus, the businesspeople in Chattogram expect that the tunnel will contribute greatly to the economy, communication and tourism sector and this will help in inking the roadmap to an advanced Bangladesh in international trade. With sincerity from the stakeholders, such expectations are very likely to be materialised. Hope, there will be all-out efforts to tap full potential of the tunnel of hope, that is, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel.

(The writer is a Professor, Department of Public Administration, University of Chittagong)

Email: [email protected]

Source: Sun Editorial