What are ‘Karewas’?

9 March 2022.


Karewas are highly fertile alluvial soil deposits found in the Kashmir valley.

About Karewas

  • In the Kashmiri dialect, Karewas means “elevated table-land.” Godwin-Austin (1859) was the first one to use the term karewa to refer to a sequence of an unconsolidated to semi – consolidated sand-clay-conglomerate.
  • Karewa sediments are found above the Paleozoic-Mesozoic sediments of the Kashmir basin and they occur as terraces, plateaus, and mounds. Generally, they can be located in the folds of mountains like the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas.
  • Karewa sediments contain remnants of human civilizations, fossils, and fertile soil deposits. Thus they hold huge archaeological and agricultural significance.

Formation of Karewas

During the formation of the Pir Panjal range in the Pleistocene period, the mountain ranges blocked the natural drainage in the region and formed a lake of 5,000 sq km. Later, the water receded and it led to the formation of Karewas in the valleys between the mountains.

Cultivation in Karewas

  • Karewas are most suitable for the cultivation of saffron, almonds, apples, and other cash crops. This is because the karewas are around 18,000 meter-thick deposits, made of highly fertile alluvial soil and other sediments like sandstone.
  • Karewas are most famous for Kashmiri saffron. In May 2020, a Geographical Indication (GI) tag was given to Kashmiri saffron for its unique features like longer stigmas, deep-red color, high aroma, and bitter flavor.

Destruction of Karewas

  • Karewas are being destroyed in the name of development, mainly for clay mining. Between 1995 and 2005, Karewas were destroyed to facilitate the construction of the 125-km-long Qazigund-Baramulla railway line.
  • Damodar Karewa in Budgam was razed to the ground to build Srinagar airport. Last year, the Baramulla administration permitted the excavation of Karewas to obtain clay for the construction of the Srinagar ring road.

Destruction of Karewas will result in huge loss of archeological heritage, accumulation of silt in rivers like Jhelum which eventually leads to floods. Thus, it is important to protect Karewas.

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