Feature: Chinese-built underwater tunnel to be inaugurated in Bangladesh

By Sun Nan and Naim-Ul-Karim (Xinhua) 10:18, October 27, 2023

CHATTOGRAM, Bangladesh, Oct. 26 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of people are busy with the final stages of completion and getting ready for the grand opening of a mega Chinese-built underwater tunnel leading to Bangladesh's largest Chattogram seaport.

The much-awaited Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel, the first under-river tunnel in South Asia, some 242 km southeast of the capital Dhaka, is awaiting inauguration by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday.

The tunnel, which implemented with joint funding from the governments of Bangladesh and China, and constructed by China Communications Construction Company Ltd. (CCCC), is 3.4 km with an approach road of 5.35 km alongside a 727-meter bridge linking the main city, port and the western side of the river with its eastern side.

Yu Jingtao, the project manager, said the tunnel is totally built with Chinese design, technology and standards.

The Chinese company designed and manufactured a tunnel boring machine with a diameter of 12 meters, which solved problems faced by underwater tunneling with the complicated geology of the Bay of Bengal, he said.

Although there were lots of difficulties, the Chinese side still completed this work with high quality and efficiency, Yu said, adding that during the construction, they compiled a technical guide for the project, which covers Chinese standards, including those for roads, bridges and tunnels, to help develop and improve Bangladeshi related industry.

"The tunneling technology applied here is for the first time in Bangladesh," Bangladeshi engineer Shaheduzzaman said, adding that as an engineer, this tunnel presented a remarkable opportunity for him to learn about something.

"After a five-year journey with CCCC, now I'm more confident, skilled, professional and passionate. This project has genuinely transformed my life for the better. It's not just about career advancement, but about personal growth, learning and the immense satisfaction that comes from contributing to something for the development of our country," he said.

The project has created more than 5,000 jobs so far, trained local people on infrastructure construction skills and promoted local economic development.

Md Nurul Azim Sikder, associate professor at the Institute of Marine Science of University of Chattogram, said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel is also the first ever under-river tunnel in Bangladesh for route communication in South Asia.

"Belt and Road Initiative and this tunnel will play a great role in improving Bangladesh's economy," the professor said, noting that it will connect Chattogram with Cox's Bazar and Matarbari deep-sea port through an alternative route.

Md Jasim Uddin Talukder, a local businessman, said the project will be a huge gate to open in tourism, especially in the southern region, since those who come from Dhaka or outside Chattogram will arrive at the very fastest time.

At the same time, work has begun to make economic zones in the southern region focusing on this tunnel, and it will play a huge role in the economic field, he said.

The tunnel will connect the proposed Asian Highway to Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar Highway, and will reduce the distance from Chattogram to the southeastern seabeach town Cox's Bazar by 40 km.

Bangladeshi Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said it is a "monumental achievement" to usher in a new era of communication within the South Asian country, marking a source of immense national pride.

The inauguration of this remarkable project will herald Bangladesh's entry into the era of underwater tunnels, the minister said.

(Web editor: Tian Yi, Liang Jun)


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