Construction of the Karnaphuli tunnel under the Karnaphuli river has spurred industrialisation in Anowara and Karnaphuli upazilas of Chattogram.
Industrialisation includes a Chinese economic zone and clothing factories.
The Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone – being built on 781 acres of land in Anowara on the south bank of the river – will create some two lakh jobs.
Its officials said $270 million would be spent for road construction and utilities inside the zone.
They said 15 foreign companies have already expressed interest in investing there.
The Korean Export Processing Zone is partially operating on the other side of the river at present.
Many Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) members have set up factories in the two upazilas, including Belami Textiles, ATP International Ltd, Harrods Garments, GSL Export and Benchmark Apparels.
BGMEA Vice-president AM Chowdhury Selim said many organisations had invested in Karnaphuli and Anowara before construction of the tunnel began and that would increase now.
"There will be more investments here compared to other places. Also, the pressure on Chattogram city will ease as communication between it and the southern areas will improve."
Anowara and Karnaphuli are on the south bank of the Karnaphuli river while Chattogram city is to the north.
Mohammad Yeassin, director general (attached division office, Chattogram) of the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority, said, "As Chattogram port and Shah Amanat International Airport are near Karnaphuli and Anowara, there might be investments outside the economic zone too. We call on the foreign and joint venture investors to invest in the Chinese and Mirsarai economic zones."
Construction of the 3.4km tunnel is going on in full swing. Harunur Rashid, director of the project, said 51 percent of construction had been completed.
The tunnel will link Chattogram city with villages in Anowara and Karnaphuli. It will also elevate upazila sadars to towns.
By building the tunnel, the development model – One City, Two Towns – will be implemented.
Mahabubul Alam, president of Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said, "The tunnel will make the journey from Mirsarai to Cox's Bazar easier. It will boost industrialisation and create employments in the region."
"The tunnel will help implement the plan to make Chattogram a commercial hub."
Abdul Hannan, a resident of Karnaphuli, said different types of industries were being set up in his upazila centring the tunnel's construction.
"As a result, land price in the area increased to Tk20 lakh per gonda (0.02 acres) from Tk8 lakh."
Part of a long-term plan
The Karnaphuli tunnel is part of the mega development plan of the port city.
A 17km seaside ring road from Sagorika near the tunnel has already been constructed while the approach road from Patenga to the tunnel is under construction.
Also, a marine drive from Mirsarai to Cox's Bazar is being constructed.
According to the project's feasibility study, 63 lakh vehicles will use the tunnel in the first year of its opening.
The road that will go to Cox's Bazar through the tunnel will ultimately be extended to China's Kunming city through Myanmar.
Moreover, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council on February 18 approved a project to elevate the Karnaphuli tunnel link road – which is under construction – to four lanes.
The project's allocation is Tk407.8 crore and it will include Anowara upazila link road (Shikalbaha-Anowara road).
It will be implemented with the government's own finance.
How the tunnel will be built
The tunnel will start from the Bangladesh Naval Academy point and will end in the mid-point of Karnaphuli Fertiliser Company and Chattogram Urea Fertiliser Limited.
It will be 18-31 metres deep under the riverbed.
Two tubes will be built that the vehicles will use to enter and exit the port city.