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Dhaka Tribune

What do we know about Dhaka’s first chief heat officer?

  • Bushra Afreen appointed CHO in 2023
  • The first and only CHO in Asia
Update : 24 Apr 2024, 04:19 PM

The entirety of Bangladesh is sweltering, and the capital Dhaka is no exception. 

Bangladesh got its first chief heat officer in Bushra Afreen, daughter of Mayor Atiqul Islam, when the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center (Arsht-Rock) selected her for the post last year to work in Dhaka North City Corporation areas to lead efforts to combat the growing threat of extreme heat caused by climate change.

Bushra, the first CHO in Asia, recently made the headlines after advising people to carry a water bottle, cap, fan, umbrella, etc when outside to battle heat.

Almost a year into her appointment, many on social media are still curious about what her job entails, her qualifications and which places other than Dhaka have a CHO.

What is a CHO and why do cities need one?

Extreme heat poses great risks to cities and is likely to grow more dangerous each year. Cities are already warmer than surrounding areas due to the urban heat island effect, and as urban population growth continues to rise, so too will the number of people impacted by this threat. By 2050, heatwaves will affect more than 3.5 billion people worldwide – half of them living in urban centres – affecting human lives and livelihoods.

To address this danger, Arsht-Rock and the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance (EHRA) created and piloted the world’s first CHO positions. These officials are responsible for unifying their city governments’ responses to extreme heat. They are charged with accelerating existing heat protection efforts and initiating new work to reduce the risks and impacts of extreme heat for their residents and constituents.

Arsht-Rock works hand-in-hand with the CHOs to identify, develop and implement strategies and priorities, accelerating heat resilience in the short term and laying a foundation for sustained resilience in the medium and long term.

How is a CHO appointed?

A city's mayor or government can choose to create the position when they undertake a program to reduce warming prioritizing climate change.

Arsht-Rock appoints a CHO, creates a job description for the post and keeps EHRA members involved to fully support the officer’s mission and activities.

Who appointed Bushra Afreen?

Arsht-Rock appointed Bushra Afreen, not the DNCC, to conduct different programs in north Dhaka to reduce heat.

The foundation provides Bushra's salaries and benefits.

DNCC Chief Executive Officer Salim Reza last year at the time of the appointment said the DNCC did not have a position called Chief Heat Officer in its organigram, and neither did it have a branch or department for temperature control. “Mayor Atiqul Islam's daughter Bushra Afreen has not been appointed to any post in the Dhaka North City Corporation.”

Qualifications

Bushra Afreen studied global development at Queen's University in Canada. She has experience as an executive of Shakti Foundation, a private development organization in Bangladesh, where she worked on the safety of garment workers and supplying more sustainable products.

Which cities have a CHO?

The first CHO appointment came in 2021. To date Bushra is the first and only CHO in Asia.

The other such officers are Jane Gilbert, chief heat officer, Miami, Florida; Eleni Myrivili, global chief heat officer, UN-Habitat and Arsht-Rock; Eugenia Kargbo, chief heat officer, Freetown, Sierra Leone; Elissavet Bargianni, chief heat officer, Athens, Greece; and Krista Milne and Tiffany Crawford, chief heat officers, Melbourne, Australia.

They have spearheaded projects ranging from installing cool pavements and roofs to mitigate the heat island effect, to categorizing heatwaves to help residents prepare for extreme events, to planting trees to create canopies. 

Only time will tell how much relief the chief heat officer can bring to the residents of north Dhaka from this intense heat.

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