Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has inaugurated the much-anticipated Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel constructed beneath the Karnaphuli River.
The premier unveiled the plaque of the tunnel connecting city’s Patenga with Anwara upazila named “Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel” at Patenga on the north bank of Karnaphuli at 11.40am on Saturday and took first ride through the tunnel.
Then, she crossed the tunnel and paid toll for her motorcade at Anwara on the South Bank of the River.
The 9.39 km-long tunnel including approach road, built at a cost of Taka 10,689 crore, will be opened to vehicles from 6am on Monday.
In terms of connecting two regions of the country, the tunnel is the second “dream scheme” in road transport sector after the Padma Bridge. The tunnel has been built following the “one city two towns” model like Shanghai in China.
It would connect the proposed Asian Highway with Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar Highway by reducing distance by 40km.
The premier also released a special commemorative postage stamp and first day cover along with special canceller, marking the inauguration of the underwater road tunnel.
According to the officials, over 17,00 vehicles would be able to use the tunnel on a daily basis equating to some 7.6 million vehicles a year. The tunnel would help increase the country’s annual GDP growth by 0.166pc.
Talking to BSS, Md. Harunur Rashid Chowdhury, Director of the mega project, said the tunnel is expected to elevate Bangladesh into a new level of prominence in the world, as it is also the region’s first ever under river road tunnel.
It will turn Chattogram into “one city with two towns” like Chinese city of Shanghai as it will expand the periphery of the city with boosting economy and opening new doors of immense potentials for industrialization, tourism and expansion of trade and commerce and developing road connectivity in the entire region.
Economists and businesspeople say the tunnel will be a game changer in turning Chattogram into a logistic hub by connecting two major economic corridors on its two sides, including Dhaka-Chattogram and Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar highways.
Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President Mahbubul Alam said Bangladesh is going to enter the era of underwater road tunnel which is of course a pride for the entire nation as well it will facilitate the business community hugely.
The tunnel would boost industrialization in the region as two export processing zones in Chattogram-KEPZ in Anwara and Chattogram EPZ in Halishahar, and Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone (CEIZ) in Anwara will be highly facilitated by the tunnel, he said.
Alam said it would connect the proposed Asian Highway with Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar Highway by reducing distance by 40km and it will also facilitate the ongoing and planned power and energy hub in Cox’s Bazar, which is already a tourist hub of the country.
Thus it will have significant contributions to the country’s GDP like Padma Bridge, the FBCCI president said.
Apart from the tunnel, he said, if a Dhaka-Chattogram expressway can be built and a master plan is taken to boost a planned industrialization on the bank of river Karnaphuli to turn it as a Smart city, it will be highly beneficial for country’s economy as well as it can boost Bangladesh’s connectivity with ‘seven sisters’ of India including Mizoram and Manipur expanding trade and business as well as tourism in the region.
According to project officials, the tunnel’s two tubes are spaced approximately 12 meters apart. Both tubes feature two lanes for traffic, and a 5.35-kilometre connecting road is situated at each end of the tunnel, with an additional 727-metre-long over-bridge at the Anwara end.
It will improve the Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar highway network.
Of the total cost, Exim Bank of China has provided Taka 6,070 core and Chinese company, China Communications Construction Company, constructed it.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly laid the foundation stones of the tunnel on October 14, 2016.
On February 24 in 2019, Sheikh Hasina also inaugurated the tunnel boring phase.
The multilane tunnel route passes through the river close to Navy College on one side and Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) and Karnaphuli Fertilizer Company (KAFCO) on the other.
It will also ease traffic congestion on two bridges over the Karnaphuli River.