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The pandemic upended the 2021 trade fair. What’s next?

  • Faysal Atik, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2021-09-16 11:31:04 BdST

When the coronavirus pandemic hit Bangladesh last year, it upended many socio-economic activities. One victim was the Dhaka International Trade Fair 2021. Organisers are worried about whether the fair can return in 2022, given the state of the pandemic.

The fair is scheduled to be held at the Bangladesh China Friendship Exhibition Centre in Purbachal in January next year, but the exhibition largely depends on the pandemic situation, said the Export Promotion Bureau, which organises the event.

The Ministry of Commerce has approved arrangements for the DITF next year, said EPB Vice-Chairman AHM Ahsan.

“It’s largely up to the pandemic situation, but we can’t sit idly by. Organising a fair is a huge undertaking. That’s why we’re continuing with preparations for the moment.”

The trade fair needs the formal approval of the EPB directorial board, headed by the commerce minister, he said, adding that the event also needs the approval of some other government agencies as well.

“Also, the prime minister usually inaugurates the fair, and therefore, the ultimate decision will come from the Prime Minister’s Office.”

Authorities had planned to hold the DITF in January 2021 at the Bangladesh China Friendship Exhibition Centre, but preparations were not completed in time. Also, the pandemic situation was not favourable to the event.

The fair was pushed to March 2021, when the nation celebrated the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the golden jubilee of its independence. It was suspended again due to the second wave of coronavirus cases caused by the Delta variant.

The Dhaka International Trade Fair has been held 25 times, starting in 1995 at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre in Sher-E-Bangla Nagar. 

Drawing huge crowds, the fair always causes heavy traffic congestion in Dhaka. To avoid the inconvenience, the Bangladesh China Friendship Exhibition Centre was built at Purbachal, a short distance from the heart of the capital, to hold the fair and similar events.

MORE HURDLES

In addition to the pandemic, repair work and construction is underway on the only road going to the exhibition centre is another obstacle to the DITF. Underpasses are being constructed on the road and blocking the easy flow of traffic.

The organisers are also working to figure out how visitors will be able to travel to the new fair venue as it is 25 km away from the previous venue at Sher-E-Bangla Nagar and 15 km from Kuril Biswa Road.

“We have requested the contractors who are tasked with the road repair work to complete the task soon so buses can run on that road. They are trying their best,” said the EPB vice-chairman.

“Last year when we were planning the trade fair, we thought of running a shuttle service of BRTC buses to and from the fair venue. Maybe we can try that this year. We’ll make a decision when the time comes.”

PURBACHAL EXHIBITION CENTRE

The Bangladesh China Friendship Exhibition Centre is built on 20 acres of land in Purbachal.

China State Construction Engineering Corporation began the construction work in 2017 and completed it in 2020. The commerce ministry handed over the reins of the exhibition centre to EPB on Feb 7 this year.

The centre houses 800 stalls, each of which is nine square feet. Also, an open space of 6 acres is available for erecting makeshift stalls.

The previous DITF venue at Sher-E-Bangla Nagar was built on 32 acres of land, including parking spaces. It had 483 stalls. 

The new exhibition centre has a total floor space of 33,000 square metres and the building floor space is 24,370 square metres. The total area of the exhibition hall is 15,418 square metres.

At least 500 cars can be parked at the two-storey car park. Also, parking lots are available for a thousand cars at the open space in front of the exhibition building.

The trade fair cannot be held on the same scale it used to be when the venue was in Sher-E-Bangla Nagar, the EPB vice-chairman said. They will try to downsize the number of stalls and pavilions to half that of previous fairs.