In the Kashmiri dialect, the term Karewa means “elevated table land”.
Karewas are lacustrine deposits (deposits in lake) in the Valley of Kashmir and in Bhadarwah Valley of the Jammu Division.
Karewas are the thick deposits of glacial clay and other materials embedded with moraines.
Firstly, this term was used by Godwin Austin in 1859 and later on by Lydekker in 1878 for unconsolidated to semi-consolidated sand clay conglomerate sequence.
“Vudr” is the local name for Karewas in Kashmiri language.
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.
Karewa deposits have different soil and sediments such as sand, clay, silt, shale, mud, lignite and losses. Hence, these are very useful for agricultural and horticulture activities.
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.
Karewa formations are useful for the cultivation of Zafran is a local variety of Saffron in Kashmir valley.
The fertility of these patches is believed to be the result of their long history of formation.
Kashmir valley resides between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal ranges of the Kashmir Himalayas. In earlier times, when the upliftment of the Pir Panjal ranges happened, the flow of the river had stopped.
As a result, the whole of Kashmir valley became a large lake. Slowly, the glacial deposits have accumulated here in this lake. Thus creating a large lacustrine plain.
Later on, the water drained away and these unconsolidated deposits remained there. These unconsolidated gravel and mud deposits are known as Karewa formation.
It formed during the Pleistocene period(2.6 million years to 11,700 years ago).
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.