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Govt scrutinising Chinese offer on SEZ in Chittagong

Comilla-EPZThe authorities concerned started scrutinising the Chinese offer to set up a special economic zone (SEZ) on the other side of the Karnaphuli river in Chittagong, officials said.

China earlier this year placed the proposal on the SEZ and tagged it with financing for the proposed Karnaphuli tunnel project.

The officials said though China had long been seeking permission to set up the SEZ, it finally tagged the issue with funding for the 3.4-kilometre Karnaphuli tunnel on the ground that without the SEZ the financing for the tunnel would not be viable.

“As the government is giving importance to construction of the tunnel, a decision has been taken to scrutinise the Chinese proposal on the SEZ,” said an official.

He also said arranging funds for constructing the country’s first ever underground river tunnel was necessary as a feasibility study on it was completed.

The Chinese company China Communication Construction Company Ltd (CCCC) completed the feasibility study earlier this year and showed interest in construction of the tunnel. It also placed its proposal to the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), which forwarded it to the Economic Relations Division (ERD) so that necessary steps are taken for arranging the fund through government-to-government (G2G) negotiation.

Sources said the ERD recently held a joint meeting with the BBA and the SEZ Authority where the issue of giving an area to China for the SEZ on the other side of the river was raised.

They said as the government already made a good progress in setting up an SEZ on 1,100 acres of land on the other side of the Karnaphuli river, the feasibility study on which was also going on, the meeting agreed to consider giving part of the land under the proposed SEZ to China.

“But we cannot take the decision. The economic zone is under the Prime Minister’s Office. So a decision in this regard should come from the Prime Minister,” said another official, who attended the meeting.

The CCCC, which forwarded the proposal on construction of the US $ 800 million Karnaphuli tunnel, conducted the study under a joint venture with the Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong confirming that construction of the 3.4 kilometre tunnel would be possible at the estuary of the river.

The government wants to construct the tunnel in view of the pressure of traffic in future in the country as the Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Highway may not be enough to ease the pressure. The tunnel would also help divert the traffic on the route from Cox’s Bazar to Dhaka.

The CCCC found that the proposed tunnel would have a 4.9 km approach road on the eastern side and a 0.74 km approach road on the western side. The dual two-lane tunnel would be constructed applying the Sheild Driven Method.

The alignment is located 6.0-7.0 km upstream of the airport. It will have a link with the Dhaka Trunk Road and also connect the airport with it through the Potenga road on the western bank.

Construction of such a tunnel usually takes four years.

Munima Sultana/ -http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2013/12/27/10865

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