The government is constructing a tunnel under the Karnaphuli river to build the port city of Chattogram as a 'one city to town' model like the city of Shanghai in China. The first tunnel of the country has been named 'Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel'. The cost of this mega project has been estimated at 10 thousand 374 crores. The work of this mega project is 95 percent completed. It is expected that this tunnel will be completed by December 2022. Traffic in the tunnel will start from next January. This dream tunnel will play an important role in the country's economy.
Shanghai, the largest and most populous city in China, is known as One City Two Towns. This industrial and commercial center of the country is bisected by the Huangpu, a tributary of the Changjiang River, which is connected by tunnels built into the river. Shanghai seaport is currently the world's busiest seaport, also one of the largest seaports. And Shanghai-like geographical situation of the port city of Chittagong and Anwara upazila across the Karnaphuli river.
It is expected that if this dream tunnel is opened, one city two towns like Shanghai will be developed around the Karnaphuli River. Cars coming from different parts of the country including the capital Dhaka and going to Cox's Bazar and South Chattogram will no longer have to enter the port city. Chattogram City will be able to reach the destination in a quick time through the tunnel through Outer Ring Road. As a result, traffic pressure in Chattogram city will decrease. The tourism industry of Chattogram-Cox's Bazar will develop further around the tunnel.
The length of the main tunnel is 3.32 km. Each tube of the tunnel has a length of 2.45 kilometers and a diameter of 10.80 meters. Each tube will have two lanes for a total of four lanes. There will be a 5.35 km connecting road at the western and eastern ends of the main tunnel. And there is a 727 meter long over bridge.
From the Chattogram airport area, two kilometers downstream of the Karnaphuli River, the tunnel will be entered from the Navy College, and the exit will be from the Fertilizer Factory of Bairagi Union of Anwara Upazila. South of the river Anwara has CUFL, Kafco, Korean EPZ, proposed China EPZ, Perki Beach. After crossing Karnaphuli, one has to go to Cox's Bazar, Banskhali and Matarbari power plants and Matarbari deep sea port through Anwara. The mega project Bahar around Matarbari, on the other hand the Bay-Terminal of Chattogram Port and the Bangabandhu Shilpanagar built over the large area of Mirsarai and Sonagazi in Feni, is taken for this tunnel project.
The contract for the construction of the tunnel was signed on November 24, 2015. Earlier in 2014, Bangladesh and China signed a memorandum of understanding for the implementation of the project. And the Chinese government nominated the Chinese company China Communication and Construction Company Limited for the construction of this tunnel. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the construction of the tunnel from Patenga end on February 24, 2019 after the design and other works. Earlier on October 14, 2016, Prime Minister and Chinese President Xi Jinping laid the foundation stone of the project.
Almost all the construction work is machine dependent so the work is being completed before the scheduled time. If it is launched, there will be massive positive changes in the development, investment, industrialization, tourism and housing sectors in the Greater Chattogram region including the port city.
If the Bangabandhu Tunnel opens, Chattogram will become a commercial city in real sense. Matarbari deep sea port, Maheshkhali LNG terminal and Banshkhali coal power plants will be at the center of economic activities. 300 MW power plant of private company United Group is being set up. On the other hand, the work of S Alam Group's 1,320 MW coal-based power plant in Banskhali is progressing.
Private investment will increase across Karnaphuli. Meanwhile, China Economic Zone is being established in Anwara with 783 acres of land. Private industry is developing. Various industrial establishments will be established there. It will provide huge employment. This tunnel will become an economic hub starting from Mirsarai Economic Zone to Chattogram in the South East region.
On the other hand, from the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, one can enter the tunnel at the Patenga end through the City Outer Ring Road and reach the Chaturi Chaumuhani point on the Patia-Anowara-Banshkhali road at the Anwara end. As a result, the distance and cost between Dhaka-Chattogram and Cox's Bazar will be reduced and time will be saved. In this case, the vehicles on this route will no longer have to enter Chattogram city. As a result, traffic congestion in Chattogram city will be reduced. Seamless and quick time communication will be established. In the long term, this entire channel will be connected to the Asian Highway Network, which will give a unique dimension to the communication system.
According to the Roads and Highways Department (SOAZ), about 6.3 million vehicles will travel through the tunnel annually. Three years after its launch, that number will stand at 1.39 million, in 2050 it will be 3.39 million and in 2062 it will be 5.5 million. A large part of it will be used for the transportation of the raw materials of the eastern industries, manufactured products to the Chattogram seaport, airport and the north-western part of the country. This will reduce production costs and help in timely shipment of products. In short, an effective modern communication system will develop.
Bangabandhu tunnel is being built through the river bed. The users of this road can observe the natural beauty on both sides of the entire road. Therefore, there will be immense potential for the tourism sector around this tunnel. On one side of the tunnel is Patenga Beach and on the other side is Parkir Char. Coastal tourism will be developed on Char's 700 acres of land. Patenga Beach is also being modernized to make it suitable for picnics, annual sports and other recreational events. As a result of the establishment of easy communication system, the surrounding area including Anwara Parki Char of the tunnel will be developed as a tourism industry.
After the Padma Bridge, another major achievement of the country will be the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel. It is the first subway in South Asia. The tunnel will increase regional connectivity. As a result there will be a huge positive change in economic development.
The writer is a student and campus journalist , University of Chittagong