Bangabandhu Tunnel - a triumph of captivating engineering beneath the mighty Karnaphuli

A novel iconic symbol of recent development of Bangladesh, the underwater tunnel is the first of its kind in South Asia

Published : 27 Oct 2023, 08:09 PM
Updated : 27 Oct 2023, 08:09 PM

National flags adorn the roundabout, outer ring road, airport road and areas adjoining the beach in Patenga. A red and green board with the words 'Joy Bangla' on it has added to the beauty quotient of the area.

A road connecting the two banks of the Karnaphuli, a river with a strong current in Chattogram, is set for opening.

A novel iconic symbol of the recent development of Bangladesh, the underwater road is the first of its kind in South Asia.

Both ends of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under the river have been decorated as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to inaugurate it on Saturday.

At Anowara end, last minute preparations are on with a trial run of toll collection held on Thursday.

Earlier, the local administration officials and project officers inspected the tunnel from Patenga to Anowara.

A big plaque bearing the name of the structure is visible at the entrance on Patenga end of the Tk 107 billion tunnel.

A sudden flash of golden aura welcomes the passengers right after the name plaque.

It is a combination of shades at the entrance and the lights inside the tunnel that creates such a golden effect.

As the vehicles entered the tunnel and ran fast, the first-time travellers got busy taking photos and shooting videos.

The spectators seemed quite awestruck as their cars move inside the tunnel.

The convoy moved forward with people watching the security systems, fire hydrants, CCTV cameras, red and green lights, emergency ways to shift from one tube to the other etc.

Was the construction as smooth as the journey?

Project Director Harun Or Rashid shared the challenges they faced while beginning the construction of the first underwater tunnel of the country.

"We imported a tunnel boring machine or TBM to dig the riverbed. But after approaching 5 percent of work, the TBM was found moving upward from the planned way because of the difference between the surface level and underground level. Hence the direction was getting changed. Later, we brought in foreign experts and handled the issue.”

He said the construction work of the first tube was halted for four months. It was completed in 17 months. But the experience gained from the first tube was beneficial for the second one which was completed in 10 months, he said.

The project director found the experience of building the first tunnel in the country a great achievement.

“As many as 40 engineers of our country worked at different parts of the construction. It has been a great opportunity for the young engineers. They can utilize this experience in other big projects in the country.”

Constructing the tunnel was a big challenge, said Chattogram Deputy Commissioner Abul Bashar Md Fakhruzzaman. “It was possible only because Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the initiative,” he said.

“Karnaphuli is a river with the strongest current. This [tunnel construction] exhibits the capability of our local engineers and officials.”

Late mayor ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury presented the proposal to connect both banks of the Karnaphuli River flowing down from Lusai Hill. After 13 years of his proposal, a tunnel connecting the banks is about to open.

The tunnel will enable people to travel from Dhaka and Chattogram to Cox's Bazar via Anowara, Bashkhali. The tunnel connects Matarbari Deep Sea Port and the industrial belt in South Chattogram to the rest of the country.

While the convoy was returning from the Anowara end, the travellers got over a little of the overwhelming first impression as they realised that the tunnel was translated into reality from a dream.

The total construction cost of the tunnel connecting both banks of the Karnaphuli River stood at Tk 106.89 billion. While the government funded Tk 46.19 billion for the tunnel, it took Tk

China funded the entire construction cost of the main part of the tunnel, Tk 60.7 billion.

The main tunnel is 3.32 kilometres long, including two 2.45 kilometres long tubes. The east and west ends of the tunnel have 5.35 kilometres of approach roads in total.

The deepest part of the tunnel is 31 metres below the riverbed.