Kamal Parvez, Chittagong:
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today inaugurated the bangabandhu sheikh mujibur rahman multi-lane underwater expressway. The tunnel will be opened to traffic from 6 am on Monday. Bangabandhu Tunnel built under the Karnaphuli River has finally made the dream of millions of residents of the country's commercial capital and port city a reality. Chittagong is now one of two cities like Shanghai.
The prime minister unveiled a plaque on the west bank of the Karnaphuli river at Patenga and another plaque on the south bank of the river at Anwara at 11am after crossing the tunnel. The prime minister also released a special commemorative postage stamp, an opening day envelope and a special seal to mark the inauguration of the first underwater road tunnel. He then attended a public meeting held at the Korean EPZ (KPZ) ground in Anwara.
At the public meeting, the prime minister will inaugurate and lay the foundation stone of several projects in Chattogram. Chattogram South District Unit of Awami League is organizing the rally.
There is a festive mood around the inauguration of the country's first underwater tunnel. Officials say the Bangabandhu Tunnel will encourage industrialization in the region. KPZ in Anwara, Chattogram EPZ in Halishahar and Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone (CEIZ) in Anwara will be connected through this tunnel.
The tunnel will reduce the distance of 40 km and connect the proposed Asian Highway with the Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar highway. At the same time, it will facilitate the ongoing and planned power and energy plant of Cox's Bazar, which is already an important tourist destination in the country.
The project director of this tunnel, the first in South Asia, built on the bottom of the Karnaphuli River. Harunur Rashid Chowdhury said the tunnel is expected to take Bangladesh to a new height in the world. Because this is the first tunnel under the river in the region.
He said the tunnel will boost the country's economy. It will open new doors of immense potential for industrialization and expand trade and commerce. It will improve road connectivity in the entire region by expanding the scope of the city.
Mahbubul Alam, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said Bangladesh is going to enter the era of underwater road tunnels, which is definitely a matter of pride for the entire nation, at the same time it will greatly benefit the business community.
Besides the tunnel, he said, if the Dhaka-Chattogram Expressway can be constructed and a master plan is made to turn it into a smart city through planned industrialization on the banks of the Karnaphuli river, it will be very beneficial for the country's economy. In addition, it can enhance Bangladesh's connectivity with India's 'Seven Sisters', including Mizoram and Manipur, and promote trade and commerce as well as tourism in the region.
About half of the project, built at a cost of Tk 10,374 crore, has been financed by China's Exim Bank. The length of the entire route of the tunnel is 9.39 kilometres (5.83 mi), the length of the tunnel is 3.32 kilometres (2.06 mi) and its diameter is 10.80 metres (35.4 ft). It was built by China Communications Construction Company of China.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated the construction work of the Karnaphuli tunnel on October 14, 2017. On February 24, 2019, Sheikh Hasina also inaugurated the boring phase of the tunnel.