General Studies IGEOGRAPHYIndian Geography



It is claimed by some activist that Kashmir’s highly fertile alluvial soil deposits called ‘karewas’ are being destroyed.

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.

How Karewas formed?

Karewas were formed during the Pleistocene Period (1 million years ago), when the entire Valley of Kashmir was under water. Due to the rise of Pirpanjal, the drainage was impounded and a lake of about 5000 sq. km area was developed and thus a basin was formed. Subsequently, the lake was drained through Bramulla gorge. The deposits left in the process are known as karewas. The thickness of karewas is about 1400 m.

The karewas have been elevated, dissected and removed by subaerial denudation to be in the present position.

The Karewa deposits in the Kashmir valley have been conventionally divided into two stages, lower and upper, representing argillaceous and arenaceous facies respectively. The upper Karewas are less fossiliferous than the lower Karewas. The entire belt touching the foothills of the Pirpanjal represents the lower Karewas, which has been exposed to the rivers starting from the south such as Veshav, Rembiara, Romushu, Dodhganga, Shaliganga, Boknag nar and Ningli. Lower Karewa sections at Aharbal, Anantnag, Arigam, Baramulla have been exposed by these rivers.

The rest of the Karewa sediments occupy the middle of the entire flank of the valley, including Pampore, Srinagar, Burzuhom, Dilpur, Pattan, Parihaspora, and parts of Baramulla District. These represent upper Karewas of the valley. The late Cenozoic deposits exposed in the Kashmir valley assume special significance as they are extensively fluvioglacial, fluvial, lacustrine and eolian in origin. The age determination of a Karewa is based on the correlation between Karewa and Shiwalik fauna from India and Pakistan. As far as the age of Karewas is concerned, the lack of chronological control has impeded the development of a detailed reconstruction of the Karewas depositional history in the intermountain basin of the valley.

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.

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.

About Saffron (Kesar)

  • Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, commonly known as the “saffron crocus”. 
  • The scientific name of wild saffron is Crocus cartwrightianus.
  • The vivid crimson stigma and styles, called threads, are collected and dried for use mainly as a seasoning and colouring agent in food. 
  • It has long been the world’s costliest spice by weight.
  • Its production has long been restricted to a limited geographical area in the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir. 
  • It is believed that saffron cultivation was  introduced in Kashmir by Central Asian immigrants around the 1st Century BCE.
  • Pampore region, in India, commonly known as Saffron bowl of Kashmir, is the main contributor to saffron production, followed by Budgam, Srinagar, and Kishtiwar districts.
  • It has traditionally been associated with the famous Kashmiri cuisine and has medicinal values.
  • Pampore Saffron Heritage of Kashmir is one of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage systems (GIAHS) recognised sites in India.
  • It grows well at an altitude of 2000 meters above sea level and needs a photoperiod (sunlight) of 12 hours.
  • It thrives best in calcareous (soil that has calcium carbonate in abundance), humus-rich and well-drained soil with a pH between 6 and 8.
  • It needs an explicit climatological summer and winter with temperatures ranging from no more than 35 or 40 degree Celsius in summer to about –15 or –20 degree Celsius in winter.
  • It also requires adequate rainfall that is 1000-1500 mm per annum.
  • Iran is the world’s leading producer of saffron, followed by Spain and India. 

Source: Down To Earth  

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