'Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel, a dream project of the people of Bangladesh is a reality now. The tunnel, the first under-the- river one in South Asia, emerges as yet another infrastructural milestone. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurates the tunnel today (Saturday). It will be opened to traffic tomorrow (Sunday).
The multilane tunnel directly connects Chittagong port and South Chattogram, including Anwara, and will make communication between Chattogram and Cox's Bazar easier than before. The tunnel will also help ease traffic congestion usually witnessed on two bridges over the Karnaphuli River. As this tunnel has already been built, the port city of Chattogram is now modeled like the Chinese city of Shanghai based on the "One City, Two Town" design. On either side of the river, there will be one town.
According to a study conducted by the government, a wide range of social and economic benefits are expected to result from the tunnel. It will facilitate better connectivity with the proposed industrial hubs located on the eastern bank of the Karnaphuli River and existing port and airport. The tunnel will also reduce the congestion experienced everyday on existing bridges, shorten travel time and help ensure better utilization of land in the eastern part of the river for manufacturing.
The tunnel is expected to add value added to the national economy as a result of better labour mobility and ability to efficiently move raw materials and finished goods via the airport and seaport. The direct connectivity with the proposed deep sea port at Sonadia Island will be of additional value. In addition to promoting tourism in areas along the Karnaphuli the tunnel would enable the administration to respond to any emergency in areas located on both sides of the river.
Sources said, the multilane tunnel route will pass through the river close to Navy College on one side and Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) and Karnaphuli Fertilizer Company (KAFCO) on the other. The tunnel will cut the road distance between Chattogram and Cox's Bazar, apart from facilitating the heavy traffic on Dhaka- Chattogram Highway entering the port city to go to other parts of Chattogram division.
According to the government study, when the tunnel in full operation the "Benefit Cost Ratio" (BCR) for the financial and economic sectors will be 1.05 and 1.50 percent, respectively. The tunnel will also have a positive impact on GDP. The economy will take on a new dimension as a result of massive employment, tourism, and industrialization. At the tunnel's Anwara end, there are Perki Beach, CUFL, and Korean and Chinese EPZs. With the tunnel in place, a better and easy transport network will be developed with the Chittagong metropolis, Chittagong port, and airport located on the western end. It will take less time and cost to carry finished goods and raw materials from industries located on the eastern part of the Karnaphuli to Chittagong port and airport.
The road network of the country's southern part will undergo a revolutionary transformation because of the tunnel. A modern communication system will be developed with Cox's Bazar, Banshkhali, and Matarbari power plants and Matarbari deep sea port via Anwara crossing through the Karnaphuli tunnel. The tunnel will facilitate connectivity with the Asian highway. Estimated 7.6 million vehicles will use the tunnel annually after three years of operation. Besides, the large-scale initiative will be seen to construct industrial establishments on both sides of the tunnel. The tunnel will turn the port city into a business hub.
Incumbent president of FBCCCI Mahbubul Alam said, "Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel is a dream project of our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. After inauguration of the tunnel, the scenario of Chattogram will be changed. The north and south portions of the Chattogram will be connected. The tunnel will open the door for investment and trade in Chattogram. The tunnel may gear up the economic activities of the country. A new city will be developed in the southern part of Chattogram. More industries will be set up in the KEPZ and at the exclusive Chinese economic zone at Anwara Upazila in Chattogram which creates huge employment opportunities for us."
It may be mentioned that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the excavation under the Karnaphuli on February 24 in 2019. Deputy Minister of Education Barrister Muhibul Hasan Chowdhury MP proposed to name the tunnel after Bangabandhu at the cabinet meeting. The cabinet meeting and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina agreed with the proposal.
The total length of the tunnel project is around 9.092 kilometers, including 3.40 kilometers under the Karnaphuli River. The estimated cost of the project is Tk. 106.89 billion, including Chinese assistance worth Tk. 59.13 billion.
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