FE: After successful opening of the country's longest bridge over the Padma river, this is going to be another success story with inauguration of the Karnaphuli tunnel. As the head of BBA and secretary of Bridge Division, how do you assess the success?
Monjur: The BBA has always tried to inaugurate its all projects when those are fully ready for traffic. The Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Dhaka Elevated Expressway and the latest Karnaphuli Tunnel are such examples. All these projects were opened for commercial operation the following day. Behind the success stories are all - engineers, officials and employees of the BBA played a significant role. Also all the previous secretaries, panel of experts, contractors, consultants deserve recognition for taking the challenges during the implementation stage. We are happy that we could continue the tradition by starting the full-fledged commercial operation the following day after opening.
FE: How will the tunnel be operated?
Monjur: The tunnel will remain open 24 hours except emergency cases. All its systems have been built in a way that any emergency case can be handled well ensuring safety and security of property and people. The flood gates which are located on both sides of the two tubes will be closed in emergency situations like cyclone, flood, heavy rain in the port city. But it does not mean that the tunnel will be kept closed whenever any danger signal or heavy shower is there. It will be related with the signals hoisted for the Chittagong Port. Before that, an announcement will be given through FM radio stations which will automatically be listened to soon after entering the tunnel.)
FE: How safe is the tunnel now for people?
Monjur: The tunnel has been built by ensuring all its systems working smoothly through drill and trials on many occasions. Safety and security issues are addressed in accordance with the tunnel infrastructure which is blocked under water not like bridge and road. So, extra cautionary measures have been taken to save property and people. Artificial intelligence-based systems have been used to alert and guide tunnel users automatically through messages, announcement, alert lights in case of any emergency situation. For example, automatic lights will be turned on, when AI detects smoke or fire or accident inside the tunnel. One hundred jet fans will be working to evacuate the fume of any fire.
FE: Do you think BBA is equipped with adequate skilled manpower and efficiency in operation and maintenance of the first ever tunnel from the beginning?
Monjur: Some 600 people have already been engaged for the O and M of the tunnel under the Chinese company CCCC. The BBA has signed a Tk 9.0 billion contract with the company to carry out the work and train the BBA staff for next five years. The CCCC has already started mobilising necessary equipment for this purpose. As the Chinese company knows all details of the tunnel including machinery, it is wise to involve them in the O and M in the beginning. They already took over the charge from June last.
FE: It is obvious that the tunnel will play a role in the economy. How will BBA contribute to skill development of the technical institution?
Monjur: The Bangabandhu tunnel is built through TBM. But another method is also used in the tunnel work. As a good number of engineers have got scope to work in the tunnel construction project, they have come to know about TBM which is the latest knowhow. The BBA wants to construct more tunnels in the future which may also help earn more skill. Engineers from different universities of engineering and technology also got scope to know the work. Though capacity building of the BBA people was in the project plan, Covid disrupted the plan.
FE: How do you assess the work of the Chinese firm when BBA's experience with some other Chinese firms was not pleasant?
Monjur: The CCCC has worked timely and done quality work, though some problems arose during the physical work. It also cooperated in continuing the work under different circumstances. The most challenging part was keeping movement of ships on the river uninterrupted and it was also managed by them.
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