The road transport and bridges ministry yesterday inked a $705 million deal with a Chinese firm in Beijing for the construction of a dual-lane tunnel under the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong.
Construction work of the 3.5-kilometre tunnel, the first of its kind in the country, will begin in December and is expected to be completed within four years.
Bridges Division Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam and Liu Qitao, chairman of China Communication Construction Company Ltd (CCCC), signed the agreement, Md Abu Naser, senior information officer of the ministry, told The Daily Star over phone from Beijing.
According to a study, the tunnel would significantly facilitate transit traffic and relieve the existing bridges of traffic pressure. It would also promote regional economic growth and enhance joint development of the regional economy.
It will provide convenient transport conditions for the planned Deep-Sea Port in south Bangladesh, thus exerting a significant role in promoting development of the
transportation industry in Bangladesh and improving the state highway network, says the study.
The tunnel will improve the Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox's Bazar highway network. It can later be linked to the planned Asian Highway Network, enabling road connections with Myanmar and India.
It would also attract downtown population in the east side and promote “One City and Two Towns” development model adopted by Shanghai, the largest city in China.
The tunnel is also necessary because heavy siltation on the Karnaphuli riverbed is a major threat for proper functioning of Chittagong Port and also for building new bridges. The existing two bridges are inadequate to accommodate the rapidly increasing traffic flow.
The eastern side of Chittagong, across the Karnaphuli, has many heavy industries. If the planned deep-sea port is built in Sonadia, the cargo traffic through Chittagong is likely to increase significantly.
In his speech, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, who witnessed the signing ceremony, said China has emerged as a big development partner of Bangladesh.
“Apart from cultural and religious relationship, China has been an active contributor to both technology transfer and financial assistance in achieving our development targets to become a middle income country by 2021,” he said.
China has a great role in every sphere of development activities in Bangladesh including roads and bridges, power plants, agriculture and defence, he added.
A memorandum of understanding on the construction of the tunnel was signed between Bangladesh and China during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to Beijing in June last year.
The prime ministers of Bangladesh and China are expected to be present in the ceremony for the construction work inauguration.