A Chinese-built underwater tunnel, the first in Bangladesh and South Asia, was inaugurated on Saturday as Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid the first toll and went through the tunnel.
Hasina and Chinese Ambassador Yao Wen also attended the inauguration ceremony of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel.
The much-awaited tunnel, some 242 km southeast of the capital Dhaka, was built with joint funding from the governments of Bangladesh and China, and was constructed by China Communications Construction Company Ltd.
Yu Jingtao, the project manager, told Xinhua that the tunnel was constructed with Chinese design, technology and standards. According to the actual situation and characteristics of Bangladesh, the Chinese team also compiled a technical guide for the project, which applied Chinese norms, to accelerate Bangladeshi development in this field.
“It’s great opportunity for the two sides of people, and for trade and tourism,” said local resident Anand Barua, adding that China is Bangladesh’s long-time friend.
“The Chinese side is our partner on this tunnel. We are so grateful,” he added.
Bangladeshi Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader called the tunnel a “monumental achievement” ushering in a new era of communication within the country and 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.
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.
More mega projects will be established due to this tunnel, said Saiful Islam Chowdhury, associate professor of the University of Chittagong, adding “I am sure that it will play a massive role in the flourishment of Bangladeshi economy.”
Noting this is a mega project under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Bangladesh-China cooperation, he told Xinhua that Bangladesh has embraced BRI, and with China’s assistance it has come a long way. As a partner of Bangladesh, China has made huge investments in the South Asian country.
“From all these aspects, I think China is trying to go ahead with Bangladesh and to extend the economy, to enlarge the economy and to flourish the economy,” said the professor.