More than a year after the Chinese president laid the foundation stone, the construction work of the country's first tunnel under the Karnaphuli river is yet to start as Chinese Exim Bank has not yet released funds.
Sources said although several months passed since the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) met necessary requirements set by Chinese Exim Bank, it has yet to get confirmation about fund release.
As a result, the Chinese company with whom it signed a commercial contract could not bring necessary equipment to start the construction work.
"Even though BBA is continuing with its part of work including land acquisition and setting up of substations on the construction site, the main construction work could not be started for not releasing funds by Exim Bank," said an official.
The Chinese government has committed to provide 80 per cent of US$ 705 million project cost which is supposed to be used for the tunnel construction. The government fund has been utilised for the purpose of land acquisition and building necessary facilities.
Official sources said an EXIM Bank mission visited the country in September last and hinted about effectiveness of the loan by mid-November. According to the requirements of the bank, the project office also sent necessary documents and met requirements in early October.
But the BBA is yet to get any confirmation about fund release, the official said.
The BBA inked the commercial deal with the China Communication Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) in June 2016 in line with a memorandum of understanding signed during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to China in 2014 to construct the Karnaphuli tunnel under government-to-government arrangement.
The construction work of the tunnel was officially launched at a joint foundation stone-laying ceremony during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Bangladesh in October 2016.
However, negotiations with Chinese Exim Bank took time on the issue of getting concessional loan. According to the bank, it can only provide highest $ 300 million. So, it requested the BBA to get the rest amount as preferential loan at a rate of 2.0 per cent interest.
The BBA has taken the move to implement the Tk 84.46-billion Karnaphuli tunnel construction project after CCCC conducted a feasibility study in 2013.
The first-ever tunnel having 3.5 kilometres long four-lane has been planned to make Chittagong into 'One City Two Towns', modelled on east and west Shanghai of China.
The total length of the proposed tunnel will be around 9.092 kilometres including 3.40 kilometres tunnel under the Karnaphuli River with an approach road of 4.89 kilometres alongside 740 metres of bridges linking the main port city, and western side of the Karnaphuli along with the heavy industry-prone eastern side of the river.
The multilane tunnel route will pass through the river close to Navy College on one side and Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) and Karnaphuli Fertiliser Company (Kafco) on the other.
The tunnel will cut the road distance between Chittagong and Cox's Bazar, apart from facilitating the heavy traffic on Dhaka-Chittagong Highway entering the port city to go to other parts of Chittagong division.
The tunnel will connect Chittagong port and Anwara upazila and is expected to make communication between Chittagong and Cox's Bazar easier. It will also ease traffic congestion on two bridges over the Karnaphuli River.
Sources said after getting the loan money, the Chinese company is supposed to bring first high-voltage boring machine.