A Chief Heat Officer (CHO) is a person who is responsible for leading efforts to make a city safer in the face of extreme heat. By unifying city-wide planning and responses to extreme heat, a CHO can accelerate existing heat awareness and protection efforts, and initiate new work to reduce the risks and impacts of extreme heat for the residents, particularly the most vulnerable neighborhoods and people.
Why does Bangladesh need a Chief Heat Officer?
Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, especially extreme heat. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh has experienced an average temperature increase of 1°C since 1960 and is projected to rise by another 1.6°C by 2050. Extreme heat poses a major threat to the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in Bangladesh, especially in urban areas where the urban heat island effect can make temperatures up to 10°C higher than the surrounding countryside. Extreme heat can cause heat stress, dehydration, heat stroke, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, reduced labor productivity, and increased mortality.
Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, is one of the fastest-growing and most densely populated cities in the world, with more than 21 million people living in an area of 306 square kilometers. Dhaka is also one of the hottest cities in Asia, with an average annual temperature of 25.4°C and a record high of 42.2°C. Dhaka faces frequent heat waves that can last for several days or weeks, with temperatures exceeding 40°C. These heat waves are exacerbated by high humidity, air pollution, lack of green spaces, poor housing conditions, and inadequate access to water, electricity, and health services.
Who is the first Chief Heat Officer in Bangladesh?
Bushra Afreen is the first Chief Heat Officer in Bangladesh, and also in Asia. She was appointed by the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock), an international organization working on climate change resilience, as part of its Global Champions for Heat Action platform, an initiative to help cities across the world tackle the challenges of extreme urban heat. Bushra Afreen will work in Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) area, which covers about half of Dhaka city and has a population of about 15 million people.
Bushra Afreen is the daughter of Dhaka North Mayor Atiqul Islam, but her appointment was not influenced by any political affiliation or nepotism. She was selected by Arsht-Rock based on her background and expertise in social welfare, government, micro-finance and innovation. She has previously worked as the Executive of Social Welfare at her family’s export-oriented garment business in Asulia, Bangladesh, where she implemented changes to protect workers and deliver a more sustainable product. She has also worked as a consultant for various government agencies and NGOs on issues such as poverty alleviation, women empowerment, disaster management, and social innovation.
What are the duties and goals of the Chief Heat Officer in Bangladesh?
As the Chief Heat Officer in Bangladesh, Bushra Afreen will be responsible for leading efforts to make Dhaka North safer in the face of extreme heat. She will work with various stakeholders such as government officials, civil society organizations, private sector partners, media outlets, academic institutions, and community leaders to develop and implement a comprehensive heat action plan for Dhaka North. Some of her duties and goals include:
- Conducting a heat vulnerability assessment to identify the most exposed and sensitive areas and populations to extreme heat
- Developing a heat early warning system to alert residents and authorities about impending heat waves and provide guidance on how to cope
- Establishing cooling centers and shelters to provide relief and services to people during heat waves
- Promoting public awareness and education campaigns on the causes, effects, and prevention of heat-related illnesses
- Improving access to water, sanitation, electricity, and health care for low-income and informal communities
- Enhancing urban planning and design to reduce the urban heat island effect by increasing green spaces, tree cover, shade structures, reflective surfaces, natural ventilation, etc.
- Supporting research and innovation on heat resilience technologies and solutions
- Monitoring and evaluating the impact and effectiveness of heat action interventions
- Sharing best practices and lessons learned with other cities in Bangladesh and around the world.
How much does the Chief Heat Officer earn in Bangladesh?
Bushra Afreen will not draw any salary from DNCC or Arsht-Rock for her role as the Chief Heat Officer in Bangladesh. She will work as a volunteer and rely on external funding and donations for her heat action initiatives. She said she is motivated by her passion and commitment to make Dhaka a more livable and resilient city for everyone.but Chief Heat Officer salary may be 8 lak taka.
What are the challenges and opportunities for the Chief Heat Officer in Bangladesh?
The Chief Heat Officer in Bangladesh faces many challenges and opportunities in her role. Some of the challenges include:
- Lack of data and information on heat exposure, health impacts, and adaptation measures
- Limited resources and capacity to implement heat action interventions
- Coordination and collaboration challenges among different sectors and levels of government
- Social and Cultural barriers to Behavior change and heat awareness
- Resistance and skepticism from some stakeholders and beneficiaries
- Political and institutional instability and uncertainty
Some of the opportunities include:
- Leveraging existing networks and partnerships to mobilize support and resources
- Engaging with diverse and marginalized groups to ensure inclusive and equitable heat action
- Harnessing the potential of youth, women, and local communities as agents of change
- Innovating and experimenting with new technologies and solutions
- Learning from and contributing to the global heat resilience community
- Creating a model and a legacy for other cities in Bangladesh and Asia
How can you support the Chief Heat Officer in Bangladesh?
You can support the Chief Heat Officer in Bangladesh by:
- Following her on social media and sharing her updates and messages
- Participating in her events and activities and providing feedback and suggestions
- Volunteering or donating to her initiatives and campaigns
- Adopting heat-smart behaviors and practices in your daily life
- Spreading awareness and education on heat resilience among your family, friends, and colleagues
- Advocating for heat action policies and programs at local, national, and international levels
Together, we can make Dhaka North a cooler, safer, and more resilient city for everyone.