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DHAKA: Social media influencers in Bangladesh are urging millions of their followers to plant trees as part of a campaign to combat climate change as the South Asian nation reels from the worst heatwave in decades.

Bangladesh recorded extreme temperatures for most days in April, with the mercury climbing to over 43.8 C last week. Meteorologists say last month saw the country’s longest heatwave, prompting authorities to shut schools and encourage citizens to stay indoors during the day.

Scientists have said climate change is causing more frequent, severe and lengthy heatwaves during the summer months.

In the capital, Dhaka, where rapid changes have stripped the crowded city of the trees, lakes and ponds that once offered its residents relief and shelter, social media influencers and students have launched initiatives in a bid to create a more livable environment.

One of the calls came from influencer Iftekhar Rafsan, who announced a plan to plant a million trees to his 4.3 million followers on Facebook on April 21.

“The temperatures in this country are now getting unbearably high. On the other hand, Dhaka is one of the worst cities in the world in terms of pollution levels … These two issues combined guided my ideas to plant trees. I care about the sustainability of this planet,” Rafsan told Arab News over the weekend.

The 26-year-old is meeting with city officials to coordinate his initiative, which will also involve year-round monitoring and nursing to ensure sustainable growth.

“We have heard about global warming since childhood. Now, it has become a reality … I am going to put my best effort into making this tree plantation campaign a success. If everybody does it together, it’s going to be easier,” he said.

Since announcing his campaign Rafsan, known as a food vlogger in Bangladesh, said he had received positive feedback from his fans.

“The youths among my followers seemed much more concerned about the issue, and that makes me more optimistic about the future. They care a lot about what’s happening around them,” he said.

The cyberspace call to look after the environment was echoed by Peya Jannatul, a 32-year-old model, actor and lawyer, who last month asked her 1.6 million Facebook followers to start planting 10 trees each.

“Many people have no idea why this heatwave is happening. Through my plantation initiative, I want to increase awareness among the people,” Jannatul said.

“My intention is to work on mitigating the overall impact of climate change, and it can’t be done alone. The more we can engage the people with more awareness, it will yield even better results.”

She hopes to encourage her followers to start gardening at home and use their rooftops for planting, while also promoting other environmentally friendly ideas such as recycling.

Jannatul is hoping to use her platform to spread more awareness in Bangladesh, which is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Like Rafsan, her campaign has been well-received by the online community.

“We don’t live here on this Earth only for ourselves. There are greater reasons. The impacts of climate change are severely impacting birds and animals too. To maintain the ecological balance, every creature on this earth is equally important. So, it’s our responsibility to maintain a planet livable for all,” she said.

As the persistent and intense heatwave swept across Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Students’ League also launched a campaign to plant 500,000 trees “to overcome the ongoing severe heatwave” in the country, hoping to engage its membership of over 5 million.

Established in 1948, BSL is the oldest students’ political organization in Bangladesh and the student wing of the country’s ruling party Awami League.

BSL Vice President Khadimul Bashar Joy said the campaign was part of a mega-project the group hoped would continue in the years to come.

“Since we are facing a global challenge of climate change, it is our responsibility to act in this regard as a conscious citizen,” Joy told Arab News.

“It is our sacred duty to plant at least two to three saplings every year to make this Earth livable for the next generation. It’s not only for our country, it’s for the whole world, for the people on this planet.”

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