From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Karewa
Mains level : Land degradation
Kashmir’s highly fertile alluvial soil deposits called ‘karewas’ are being destroyed in the name of development, much to the peril of local people
What are Karewas?
- The Kashmir valley is an oval-shaped basin, 140 km long and 40 km wide, trending in the NNW–SSE direction.
- It is an intermountain valley fill, comprising of unconsolidated gravel and mud.
- A succession of plateaus is present above the Plains of Jhelum and its tributaries.
- These plateau-like terraces are called ‘Karewas’ or ‘Vudr’ in the local language.
- These plateaus are 13,000-18,000 metre-thick deposits of alluvial soil and sediments like sandstone and mudstone.
- This makes them ideal for cultivation of saffron, almonds, apples and several other cash crops.
Significance of Karewas
- Today, the karewa sediments not only hold fossils and remnants of many human civilisations and habitations, but are also the most fertile spots in the valley.
- Kashmir saffron, which received a Geographical Indication (GI) tag in 2020 for its longer and thicker stigmas, deep-red colour, high aroma and bitter flavour, is grown on these karewas.
How are they formed?
- The fertility of these patches is believed to be the result of their long history of formation.
- When formed during the Pleistocene period (2.6 million years to 11,700 years ago), the Pir Panjal range blocked the natural drainage in the region and formed a lake spanning 5,000 sq km.
- Over the next few centuries, the water receded, making way for the valley and the formation of the karewas between the mountains.
Threats to Karewas
- Despite its agricultural and archaeological importance, karewas are now being excavated to be used in construction.
- Between 1995 and 2005, massive portions of karewas in Pulwama, Budgam and Baramulla districts were razed to the ground for clay for the 125-km-long Qazigund-Baramulla rail line.
- The Srinagar airport is built on the Damodar karewa in Budgam.