Uttarakhand is paying Rs 85 for a litre of water dropped by two air force Mi-17 helicopters to douse forest fires.
The helicopters, in operation since May 1, have dumped nearly 1.75 lakh litres of water over forests in 34 sorties till May 2. They flew 16 sorties till May 3 afternoon.
The water is drawn from either Bhimtal lake near Nainital in the Kumaon division or from the Srinagar reservoir in Garhwal.
“The choppers fly at an altitude of 10,000-14,000 feet. Most of the water gets lost in the air and the remaining gets caught in the canopy. Practically, the water doesn’t reach the dry ground that needs hydration. So, the effort goes in vain,” said Rajinder Kumar Mahajan, head of the state forest force.
The government is expecting a bill of Rs 50 lakh or may be a little more.
The raging wildfires have reduced about 3,500 hectares of lush Himalayan forestland to ashes and have claimed six lives. Many animals and nesting birds in popular wildlife habitats are feared killed too.
This year forest fires have been particularly worse, and the joint efforts of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), the Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Army have helped in gaining control over them.
Environmentalists are worried over the ‘long lasting effect’ of the forest fires. Experts at Nainital’s Aryabhatta Research Institute for Observational Sciences (ARIES) and Govind Ballabh Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development (GBPIHED) in Almora, have said that ‘black carbon’ from smog and ash is covering the glaciers, thereby making them prone to melting.