Just two decades back, nobody ever imagined that there would be a tunnel under the river Karnaphuli. But it is there today. The already completed underwater expressway titled Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel is connecting the commercial city of Chattogram with greater south Chattogram. Today the Bangabandhu Tunnel is a dream-come-true, no matter how far-fetched it looked years ago. The economic significance of the Bangabandhu Tunnel, the first ever under-river road in South Asia, is immense, since it is going to ease communication of the Chattogram city with Cox's Bazar, Teknaf and Matarbari, three key locations-the first one is a tourist attraction, the second is a site for a proposed deep-sea port and the other is going to be a hub of power generation. Furthermore, the people from Dhaka as well as the rest of the country will find it easy to go to Cox's Bazar or any location of South Chattogram, bypassing the Chattogram city on a road trip cut at least by 40 kilometres. It has been possible due to the bold initiatives taken by the incumbent government under the able leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who has shifted her primary focus to infrastructural development of the country with a view to achieving robust economic growth and ensuring a better quality of life and livelihood for the general people of Bangladesh.
The Bangabandhu Tunnel will bring about a remarkable change in the communication between South Chattogram and the rest of the country. Although the world's longest beach at Cox's Bazar has remained the best tourist spot of the country, there are still ample possibilities to explore and develop it further. The completion of this tunnel road has made it easier.
On the other hand, the Matarbari deep-sea port, once completed in 2026 as proposed, will play a very significant role in the shipping and logistics sector of the country. This under-river tunnel linking the Chittagong Port and the upcoming Bay Terminal with the Matarbari deep-sea port will be vital for transportation of export and import goods. This will cut both cost and time of transportation of goods between these two port
points located about 140km away from each other.
Chattogram has long been termed as the commercial capital of the country but the people of Chattogram always had the impression that Chattogram had not been within the primary focus and attention of the government, though this city of vast potential truly deserved it. When this government came to power in 2008 for the second time, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina placed Chattogram on her list of priority regions for intensive development. Today the Mirsarai Economic Zone, the Lalkhan Bazar-Patenga Flyover, the Bayezid Link Road, the Matarbari Power Plant, the Banshkhali Power Plant, the Matarbari Deep-sea port, the Coastal/Ring Road, the Chattogram to Cox's Bazar Railway and the Bangabandhu Tunnel will undoubtedly vouch for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's determination to turn Chattogram into a commercial city in its true sense.
Bangladesh, one of the smallest countries in the world with one of the densest populations, is moving ahead at a wondrous pace on in the highway of development. The progress in the last one and a half decades attests to it. The visionary and unfaltering leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, daughter of Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who was also adjudged the Best Bengalee of the Millennium, has made it all possible by dint of her relentless effort and unwavering strides towards bettering the economy during her three successive tenures.
In view of the unprecedented infrastructural development across the country, there is no denying the fact that the countrymen have witnessed the epoch-making events one after another. The Padma Bridge, the Rooppur nuclear power plant, the Matarbari coal-based mega power plant, the Payra seaport, the Matarbari deep-sea port, the Dhaka Expressway, the Dhaka Metro Rail, the longest flyover in Chattogram from Lalkhan Bazar to the Patenga beach, the Bangabandhu Tunnel under the Karnaphuli, the 16km four-lane coastal road in Chattogram, the 3rd terminal at the Dhaka airport, the rail link on the Padma Bridge connecting the country with its southern part are among the numerous infrastructural mega milestones that will speak of a Bangladesh we dream of.
A sense of elation is there due to the fact that the country is witnessing successful completion of one mega project after another. At the same time a sense of caution should also be there that completion of one project invariably necessitates taking up and completion of ancillary projects. Until and unless the secondary projects are completed, the primary mega projects will not be able to contribute to the national economy to the fullest of their capacity. Completion of the Padma Bridge project along with the expressway between Jatrabari and the Bhanga point in Faridpur now underlines the necessity of turning into at least four lanes the two-lane national highways connecting the Bhanga point with Barishal, Patualkhali Payra Port, Mongla seaport and the Sundarbans. It is the same way that reaping the most benefits from completion of the Bangabandhu Tunnel will hinge upon turning the 140km two-lane Chattogram-Cox's Bazar national highway into a wider four-lane road. And when it comes to completion of the ancillary projects, people do not like to adhere to the proverb: "Better late than never"; rather they would love to cling to the adage: "The sooner, the better."
For consistent development and progress in a country, continuation of the overall implementation process is the most crucial part and it has to be maintained by all means necessary. It has been proved time and again that the incumbent government is focused on as well as committed to continuing and implementing the ongoing and upcoming infrastructural projects not only in the communication sector but also in shipping, logistics supply, digitalisation, modernisation and, most importantly, creating an atmosphere conducive to considerable foreign investment. All these collective and coordinated efforts will lead to better, stronger and more consistent economic growth. With Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the helm of the government, the country is moving towards a brighter future as far as the economy and the better quality of life are concerned. Continuation of the ongoing development is essential to fulfill Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's dream of turning Bangladesh into 'Sonar Bangla.'
Nurul Qayyum Khan is president of Bangladesh Inland Container Depot Association, president of Bangladesh Marine Fisheries Association and chairman of QNS Global Group.
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