Essay : Bangabandhu Tunnel New Era of Communication

Introduction : Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman tunnel is a dream project of our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It will open the door of investment and trades in Chattogram. Main tunnel would be twin-tube type 3.40 km long and in the western and eastern part 5.35 km approach road as well as 727 m overbridge (viaduct) will connect Anwara Upzilla with the Chattogram city. The tunnel will connect the proposed Asian Highway with Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar Highway along with reducing the distance by 40 km.

Bangabandhu Tunnel - Toll Side

What is tunnel : A tunnel is an underground or enclosed passageway that allows for the transportation of people, vehicles, or goods from one point to another, typically through a mountain, hill, body of water, or urban area. Tunnels are constructed to provide a direct and efficient route when surface-level transportation is impractical, costly, or environmentally undesirable. Tunnels serve various purposes including transportation, mining, utilities (such as water supply pipes, sewage systems, and power cables, to protect them from external elements and disturbances), military and defense etc. Tunnel construction requires specialized engineering and construction techniques to ensure the safety and stability of the structure. Tunnel construction requires specialized engineering and construction techniques to ensure the safety and stability of the structure. Tunnels can be categorized into various types based on their purpose, construction methods, and the materials used. Such as, Road Tunnels, Railway Tunnels, Subway Tunnels, Water Tunnels, Mining Tunnels, Utility Tunnels, Subsea Tunnels, Military Tunnels, etc.

History of Tunnel : The history of tunnels dates back thousands of years, with tunnels being constructed for various purposes, including transportation, mining, water management, and military defense. Some of the earliest tunnels were constructed by ancient civilizations like the Egyptians, who built tunnels and chambers within the pyramids. In Mesopotamia, tunnels were used for irrigation and drainage purposes. The ancient Greeks and Romans also created tunnels for water supply and transportation. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans used tunnels to extract valuable minerals and ores. In the Middle Ages, tunneling techniques improved, and mines became more extensive. The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw the construction of subway tunnels in major cities like London, New York, and Paris, to provide underground mass transit systems.

Background of Bangabandhu Tunnel : Chattogram district is divided into two parts by the river Karnaphuli (North and South). Existing 2 bridges (Kalurghat Bridge and Shah Amanat Bridge) are not sufficient to cater the need of existing traffic. Besides, better hinterland connectivity is in dire need between the industrial zone located on the east side of the river and existing seaport, airport and main city on the west side. On the other hand, China envisioned Belt and Road Initiative which needs regional connectivity infrastructure development under Asin Highway Network and Chattogram is a key location for BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) corridor that starts at Kunming in China, pass through Myanmar and Bangladesh, and end up in Kolkata, India. Chattogram, as a transport hub connecting Sough Asia and South East Asia, will be built on “One City and Two Town” model as like as shanghai city of China. In this regard, an MoU was signed between Bangladesh and China in June 2014. One year later, on 30 June 2015 Bangladesh signed a business contract with China to build Multi-Lane Road Tunnel under the Karnaphuli river in Chattogram to promote in interconnection between Bangladesh and its neighbouring countries. The work of the project started on 5 December 2017 with Mobilisation Payment as the First Disbursement. Hon’ble Prime Minister of Bangladesh inaugurated the Tunnel Boring work on 24 February 2019.

The tunnel is a blessing of BRI and Asian Highways Network : Bangladesh is a signatory country and a key strategic partner of China envisioned Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). One economic corridor will pass through Bangladesh of the six economic corridors upon which the concept of BRI is built. The old BCIM corridor is now to become the BRI corridor linking Kunming to Kolkata. The BCIM corridor envisages greater market access for goods, services and energy, elimination of non-tariff barriers, better trade facilitation, investment in infrastructure development, and joint exploration and development of mineral, water, and other natural resources. There are only two corridors of the six corridors which are identified as maritime corridors and the old BCIM corridor is one of them. Therefore, to connect Chattoram with Asian Highway Network under the BRI, China was keen to build the Multi-Lane Road Tunnel under the river.

Primary objectives of Bangabandhu Tunnel :
  • To develop an uninterrupted and befitting road communication in Chattogram city as well as development of existing road networks
  • To strengthen the role of Chattogram as transportation hub
  • To improve communication between two sides of the Karnaphuli river
  • To reduce traffic pressure on two existing road bridges
  • To connect with Asian Highway Network (AHN)
  • To connect the developing town beside the east part of Karnaphuli River with the down town and expedite the development work
  • To attract new settlement to the east side
  • To increase the existing facilities of Chattogram port
  • To develop a new road communication among Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar
  • To develop Chattogram city in ‘One City and Two Town’ model as like as Shanghai city of China
  • To support the Blue Economy activities of Bangladesh centring the Bay of Bengal
  • To support Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) and Exclusive Chinese Economic Zone (ECEZ) in Anwara Upazila

The tunnel will bring economic benefits : According to the feasibility report, some 6.3 million vehicles will be travelling through the tunnel in 2024, rising to 13.9 million in 2030, 32.9 million in 2050 and 50.5 million in 2062. Of the total number of vehicles using the tunnel, trucks account for almost 50%. The traffic forecasts have assumed that the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway to transport cargo to other parts of the country. In addition, the proposed tunnel will serve the proposed industrial zone located east of the Karnaphuli river and will divert truck traffic from the two existing two bridges. During the operation phase, direct economic benefit arises from tunnel management and operational services provided by core staff. A total of 250 staff is expected to be required during the operational stage and all of them are anticipated to be locally hired Bangladeshis. The economic benefit can be estimated based on the projected number of employees and the value-added contribution to the Bangladesh economy is estimated at Tk 36 million or US$ 0.44 million per annum during the operation phase, according to feasibility report.

Conclusion : During the dire time COVID-19 outbreak, the construction of the Tunnel has not stopped. Many agree that the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel will help our country in reducing poverty and to increase employment followed by a good impact in the economic development in the context of globalization and regional connectivity. Consequently, the vision of our Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to make Bangladesh a developed and prosperous country will be realized.
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