The 3.5km-long four-lane tunnel is the first of its kind in Bangladesh and South-East Asia
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the boring of the much-awaited Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under the Karnaphuli River on Sunday.
At the inauguration in Patenga, Chittagong, she said: “I want to make Bangladesh such a country that the whole world looks on with wonder.”
PM Hasina added: “I do not want fame and wealth. My only desire is that the people of Bangladesh walk with their heads held high. That’s why I want to do fresh things so that solvency comes in their (people) life and they can stride with dignity.”
The 3.5km-long four-lane tunnel, the first of its kind in Bangladesh and South-East Asia, will be built at a cost of Tk9,880 crore to make Chittagong "One City Two Towns," based on a model of East and West Shanghai in China, according to officials.
The total length of the proposed tunnel will be around 9.1km, including 3.4km under the Karnaphuli River, with a 4.89km approach road alongside 740m of bridges, linking the main port city and western side of the Karnaphuli to the industrial zones on the eastern side of the river.
The tunnel route will pass under the river close to the Navy College on one side and the Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) and Karnaphuli Fertilizer Company (Kafco) on the other.
It will cut short the distance between Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar, apart from easing traffic on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway entering the port city to go to other parts of Chittagong division.
The multi-lane tunnel will connect Chittagong Port and Anowara Upazila and is expected to make communication between Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar easier, reducing traffic congestion on two bridges over the Karnaphuli River.
Chinese firm, China Communication Construction Company Ltd (CCCC), has been appointed as a consultant for construction of the tunnel, sources added.
A CCCC representative presented a replica of the tunnel to the prime minister.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly laid the foundation stone in October 2017.
The premier said the construction of the Karnaphuli Tunnel will bolster industrial development, enhance tourism, and expand trade and commerce near the project area, creating employment and boosting exports.
The overall socioeconomic development and lifestyle of the people of this area will improve and there will be a very positive impact on the total economy of the country, she added.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister, Obaidul Quader, Bridges Division Senior Secretary, Khandakar Anwarul Islam, and Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Zhang Zou, also spoke at the function.
The prime minister also opened construction work of the 17km long elevated expressway in the port city. Ministers, parliament members, local Awami League leaders, and senior civil and military officials, were present at the function.
The proposed elevated expressway from Lalkhan Bazar to Shah Amanat Airport will be built at a cost of Tk3,250 crore. Max Benkin JB has been appointed contractor for construction of the elevated expressway.
Padma Bridge will not be renamed
Referring to the proposals of different parties, including the road transport and bridges minister, to name the Padma Bridge after her (the PM), the prime minister said the bridge will remain as the Padma Bridge, and there is no need to change its name.
She said: “We are constructing the bridge with our own funds. After so many things happened with the bridge, its name will remain as it is. I do not want my name on it.
“But the road transport and bridges minister was very upset with me because I turned down his proposal to name the bridge after me,” she added.
The prime minister said that after assuming office again in 2009, her government took initiatives to build the bridge, and the World Bank, the ADB, and others, showed interest in the project.
She said when the World Bank accused the government of corruption in the Padma Bridge project, she asked them for proof and details of their allegations.
The premier said the World Bank did not respond, and instead carried out propaganda against the Bangladesh government. She said the sitting WB vice-president visited Bangladesh afterwards.
“I asked the vice-president to prove the corruption, and our pressures drove them to send a letter with allegations of graft in two projects from 2002 during the BNP-Jamaat regime. The two projects were the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway Project and the Siddhirganj Power Plant,” the prime minister elaborated.
Without mentioning any names, the premier said it is unfortunate that “some people of our country blamed us for so-called corruption in the Padma Bridge project.”
She accused editors and owners of two renowned newspapers and a Nobel laureate from Chittagong (an allusion to Prof Yunus) of carrying out propaganda with the US State Department, prompting sitting US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, to email her in this regard.