Chinese company's request for extension of Karnaphuli tunnel timeline rejected

| Updated: November 27, 2021 12:19:45

Photo source: UNB Photo source: UNB

The government demurred as the Chinese contractor for the Bangabandhu Tunnel down the Karnaphuli river proposed that the project-implementation period be extended by one year, highly placed sources said.

It is learnt that in a review meeting on the project, held in Dhaka recently, the China Communications Construction Company Ltd placed the proposal on grounds that due to the Covid pandemic they could not engage the required number of manpower and that deterred the project-execution work.

''And, ultimately, the works could not be carried out at the desired pace,'' the company officials present at the meeting were quoted as saying.

But the meeting, attended by high officials of ERD, and finance and communications ministries, told the Chinese firm that the tenure of the project could not be extended as the tenure of the loan agreement signed with the Exim Bank of China would expire on November 5, 2022.

The government side at the meeting asked the CCCCL to finish the works before the expiry of the loan agreement so that the government can ask the EXIM Bank to disburse the money, the sources told the FE.

According to the officials, the estimated cost of the four-lane tunnel is Tk 103.74 billion where the Chinese Exim Bank will provide 59.13 billion.

The meeting was told that till the first week of November, the financial progress of the project had come to 68.72 per cent and physical progress to 74.33 per cent.

The meeting also noted that the project cost would rise due to the change in the exchange rate of the local currency against the US dollar. An additional amount of 12 million US dollars will be needed due to the fluctuation in the currency-exchange rate.

Another issue related to cost escalation is the construction of five underpasses. These underpasses were not incorporated into the original proposal, the project officials said.

The meeting decided to revise the DPP of the project again to incorporate the additional costs of the project.

The tunnel -- first such communications infrastructure in Bangladesh--is being built under Chinese funds for which agreement was signed during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2016. The tenure of the project is 2015 to 2022.

The total length of the four-lane Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman tunnel will be around 9.39 kilometres, including 3.32 kilometres of the main tunnel. Added to that the total length of the approach road between the western and eastern sides will be 5.35 kilometres alongside 727 metres of over bridge, officials said.

The underwater transport passage is expected to make communications between Chattagram and Cox's Bazar easier by reducing traffic congestion on two bridges over the Karnaphuli.

According to the project officials, in the first year, after it opens to vehicular movement, some 6.3 million vehicles will pass through this tunnel, which connects Chattogram seaport with Anowara Upazila.

Most of these vehicles will be container trailers, various types of goods-laden trucks and covered vans.

''Besides, tourist buses, cars and other modes of transport can move through the tunnel, making life much easier for the national and international tourists,'' it is stated in the objective of one of the megaprojects being implemented in Bangladesh, including some under a Chinese line of credits offered during Xi's visit.

More than 360.64 acres of land have been acquired for the construction of roads and instalments of utility lines. The total area of the project is 382.03 acres.

A total of 2,275 families are affected by this project, and of them, 1,660 were given compensation.

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