CHATTOGRAM, Nov 11: The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under Karnaphuli River may be opened for vehicular movement next month as almost all works of the $1.1 billion project were completed as of November 1, 2022, officials said.
"Bangabandhu Tunnel, the first of its kind in Bangladesh, is expected to be opened to public traffic in December this year," Project Director (PD) Harunur Rashid said.
Jointly funded by Bangladesh and China, construction work on the 9.39 kilometres (5.83 miles) multi-lane tunnel was started on October 14, 2017 and is being implemented by the Bangladesh Bridges Authority (BBA), he said.
Initially, the cost of the project was estimated at Tk9,880 crore or $1.1 billion of which around half is financed by the Exim Bank of China. Its 3.4 km (an 11-diametre twin tunnels express road) will be under the water of Karnaphuli, the lifeline of Chittagong Port, and it will also have over five km connecting roads on both banks of the river.
Sources said, once opened, it will be a game changer for the south east region of Bangladesh, presenting a solution to connectivity issues to the rest of the country. It is also part of China's One Belt One Road initiative and a key link in planned cross-country transport corridors.
Officials said, two tubes of the tunnel have been constructed with an 11-metre gap from each other with the view to ensuring unhindered movement of heavy vehicles through the underwater portion of multi-lane expressway.
They said, before inauguration, other issues including unhindered driving through the tunnel will be checked and rechecked then it will be formally opened to public traffic.
As part of the project, bridges, totalling 740 metres in length have been built, linking the main port city and western side of Karnaphuli River with the heavily industrialising eastern side of the river and Anwara Upazila.
The multilane tunnel will directly connect the Chittagong Port with Anwara Upazila and is expected to make communication between Chattogram and Cox's Bazar easier. The tunnel will also ease traffic congestion on two bridges, including Shah Amanat Bridge, over the Karnaphuli.
The runnel has also been designed to connect the port city and southern part of Chattogram district with tourism town Cox's Bazar and rest of the country, an official involved with planning and execution of the project said. It is also expected to boost business activities at Chittagong Port and contribute to growth of GDP in the country, said an official at the Chittagong Port Authority said.
When contacted, Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Mahabubul Alam said, after inauguration of the tunnel, picture of south-eastern part of the country, including Chattogram, will be changed.
The north and south portions of the Chattogram will be directly connected through the underwater tunnel and it will open the door for an increase in trade and investment in this part of the country, he also said.
The tunnel will gear up the country's economic activities and will cut the road distance between Chattogram and Cox's Bazar, apart from easing traffic congestion on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway which goes to other parts of Chattogram division after entering the port city, he added.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly laid the foundation stone at the construction site of the project in 2017 and the Bangladesh Prime Minister inaugurated the main tunnel's excavation work under Karnaphuli River on February 24, 2019.
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