The dream project Bangabandhu Tunnel under the River Karnaphuli will not be completed in next year as the execution of the over Tk 84.46 billion ($1.05 billion) project is hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Sources said the construction work on the project which can change the port city and entire Chattogram division by connecting the district's south portion with the north and neighbouring Cox's Bazar district through the 9.092-kilometre-long tunnel will not be completed within the scheduled time of 2022 due to the two consecutive waves of Covid-19 pandemic which also hit hard many other development projects in the country.
Officials said construction work of Karnaphuli Tunnel was almost stopped last year due to coronavirus outbreak and, the work is going on very slowly in the current year, due to lack of workers and technical manpower from home and abroad for the pandemic-induced lockdown.
Project Director (PD) Harunur Rashid told the FE on Saturday, 70 per cent work of the Karnaphuli Tunnel project has already been completed.
Stating that execution of the mega project had been affected due to the pandemic, he said that the physical work of the rest of the project was progressing at a snail's pace now.
Admitting that completing the project within 2022 was impossible now the official said the shortage of workers was severely disrupting the construction work.
A few workers who live in the port city and near the site of the under-construction tunnel on both banks of the Karnaphuli river are working at the project site but those who stay outside the city and far away don't come to the site for fear of contracting coronavirus, he said. "The workers who are living at the project area or close to the site are working now while no workers can go to the project from away," he said.
He also said, earlier, during the coronavirus outbreak, the construction work continued on a limited scale. "Later, the construction work continued slowly after the 2021 Eid-ul-Fitr. Despite the slow rate of work, the construction work is continuing now," he mentioned.
"At the first stage of corona outbreak last year, the work was almost stopped due to pandemic-induced series of government holidays and lockdown nationwide. Later in the year, the construction work continued regularly. "52 per cent of of Karnaphuli Tunnel Project construction work was completed before corona outbreak. Presently, 70 per cent of work has been completed," he added.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the excavation under the Karnaphuli river on February 24, 2019, to kick start the construction work. Deputy Minister of Education Barrister Muhibul Hasan Chowdhury MP proposed to name the first-ever tunnel of the country after Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in a cabinet meeting. The cabinet meeting and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina agreed to the proposal. So, the under-construction multipurpose Karnaphuli tunnel was named as Bangabandhu Tunnel following issuing a circular.