The Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) has appointed a chief heat officer (CHO) to manage battle heat in Dhaka. This is the first-ever appointment of its kind in the entirety of Asia, with Dhaka being the pioneering city.
As a result, the concept of a heat officer is new to the residents of the capital. Many have raised various questions about the nature of this position, its responsibilities and how the appointed officer will carry out their duties.
Although it is a new concept in Bangladesh, heat officers are appointed in many developed cities worldwide. They conduct various activities and formulate policies according to each city’s situation.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on Wednesday between the DNCC and the US-based Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation. They pledged to work together to reduce the temperature in Dhaka.
The agreement was signed at a ceremony at Dhaka University’s (DU) Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban, where the appointment of the chief heat officer was announced.
As per the announcement, the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation appointed Bushra Afreen as the first CHO in Bangladesh.
What does a chief heat officer mean?
According to information found on the internet, a chief heat officer is an individual who leads efforts to combat the growing threat of extreme heat caused by climate change.
The world’s first chief heat officer was appointed in Miami Dade County, Florida, in April 2021.
In a role similar to that of a chief sustainability officer or chief resilience officer, a chief heat officer focuses on addressing environmental risks. They also work to mitigate the effects of heatwaves and increasing temperatures.
In addition to their other responsibilities, a chief heat officer works with urban planners, public health officials and other stakeholders to reduce heat in cities and protect local residents from the health effects of extreme heat, creating a safe and healthy environment.
The Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation has been working on this issue in various locations in recent years.
Currently, there are chief heat officers in cities such as Los Angeles and Miami in the United States, Freetown in Sierra Leone, Athens in Greece, Santiago in Chile, and Melbourne in Australia.
Why does Dhaka need a chief heat officer?
Last month, Dhaka’s temperature broke records, soaring above 40°C in mid-April. Life in the capital was nearly at a standstill due to the heat.
Environmentalists said that the unbearable temperature increase was due to various factors, such as the lack of sufficient trees in the city, ongoing development projects, unplanned urbanization and environmental damage.
Therefore, a chief heat officer is now deemed necessary to identify the problems of urban heat increase, find solutions, implement greening initiatives and bring Dhaka’s temperature to an internationally acceptable level through various efforts.
Roles and responsibilities
The responsibilities of a chief heat officer depend on the city or organization they work for. They develop action plans based on the city’s conditions.
Notable tasks of a chief heat officer include adopting and implementing strategies to reduce urban heat. This involves identifying areas in the city with the highest temperatures and mitigating heat in those areas through improvements in green infrastructure, such as parks, trees, roofs and sidewalks.
Additionally, a chief heat officer develops plans to protect vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and young children, from the health impacts of extreme heat.
They also work to raise awareness about the risks of extreme heat among the general public and provide guidance on staying safe during periods of excessive heat.
As chief heat officer works on controlling urban heat, they collaborate with other stakeholders in urban management.
Overall, the goal of a chief heat officer is to reduce the adverse effects of heat on public health, infrastructure and the environment, and to better prepare for the challenges of a changing climate through various initiatives.
Who is Bushra Afreen, the first chief heat officer in Bangladesh?
Bushra Afreen, appointed as the first chief heat officer in Bangladesh, graduated in global development studies from Canada. She is the daughter of DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam.
Bushra has experience working as an executive at Shakti Foundation, a nongovernmental development organization in Bangladesh.
Bushra’s commitment to protecting Dhaka from excessive heat
At the Arsht-Rock event on Wednesday, Bushra expressed her feelings about being the first chief heat officer in Bangladesh by saying: “I am thrilled to join a global organization of leaders and experts from various cities.”
“The temperature in Dhaka city is increasing at an alarming rate and, as a result, low-income workers, slum dwellers, migrants, women and children are particularly vulnerable,” she said.
Stressing that there is no alternative to urgent action to combat the severe heatwaves, Bushra committed to protecting the people and communities of Dhaka from intense heat.