Bangabandhu Tunnel of Chittagong’s Karnaphuli River has appeared with new possibilities. The name of this possibility is China’s Silk Road. The three and a half kilometer long tunnel will first connect Chittagong with the Asian Highway. And the Asian Highway will connect to China’s Silk Road, which will connect Europe through India, Nepal, Bhutan and China.
China wants to facilitate trade and communication through the Asian Highway. For this, Beijing has plans to add 600 kilometers of eight highways of Bangladesh to the Asian Highway. The new proposal to create the Asian Highway of South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) and Economic Corridor between Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar (BCIM) has already been finalized by the road department after conducting a survey in the form of a project. But the initiative did not have the desired momentum as China’s attempt to build a deep-sea port at Maheshkhali stumbled. However, after the start of traffic in the Bangabandhu Tunnel, the possibility of Bangladesh stepping on the Asian highway has become bright again.
Ekushey medalist economist and former president of Bangladesh Economics Association. Mainul Islam said, ‘If the Economic Corridor between Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar (BCIM) is opened, the communication system will get new momentum. Bangladesh will benefit more if it gets a chance to enter this corridor. The tunnel and marine drive have brought this possibility to the fore again.’
FBCCI president Mahbubul Alam said, ‘The initiative to build a marine drive with tunnels is a long-term plan of Bangladesh. Through this there will be an opportunity to join the Asian highway. If Bangabandhu Tunnel is used for inter-country communication, trade and commerce will expand. New areas of investment will be created.
Those concerned said that the tunnel has been built under the Karnaphuli river to connect the 600 km highway of Bangladesh with Nepal, Bhutan and India. A new bypass road of 15 km length called Outer Ring Road has been built next to the tunnel at a cost of 3.5 thousand crore rupees. The ring road next to the tunnel will be widened. A 168 km marine drive will be constructed from Mirsrai in Chittagong to Teknaf in Cox’s Bazar. Department of Roads and Public Ways (SOAZ) is also starting work with a possible cost of Tk 42 thousand crores. Apart from this, the Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar railway line has been constructed at a cost of 18 thousand crore taka in front of the Asian highway. Another road-cum-rail bridge will be constructed at Kalurghat in Karnaphuli. Elevated expressway has been made at a cost of 3 thousand crores. Muradpur-Lalkhanbazar flyover has been constructed at a cost of Tk 453 crore. Some of these projects have been launched, some will see the light of day this year.
Opportunities for tourism, urbanization and industrialization have increased around the tunnel under the Karnaphuli River. Omar Hajjaz, president of the Chittagong Chamber, believes that the country’s economy will change if the opportunity is utilized. He said, ‘Mirsrai is the biggest industrial city of the country with more than five hundred buildings. Again there are 72 mega projects including deep sea port in Maheshkhali. Anwara has Korean EPZ, Chinese industrial zone. This tunnel will serve as a link in the transportation of goods of these projects. The tunnel will also play an important role in taking Chittagong port products to Cox’s Bazar. Again, the tunnel has created an opportunity for new urbanization on the other side of the river.