Kashmir’s Geological Treasure under severe threat Karewas be declared as heritage sites

The valley of Kashmir is an oval-shaped basin with a plain area of 140 x 40 kms. The valley has large tracts of plateaus locally known as Karewas or  Wodder . This is like an intermountain fill that comprises unconsolidated gravel and mud. The Geologists say that Karewas of Kashmir were formed during the Pleistocene period which is  defined as the time period that began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago. This was the time when the entire valley of Kashmir  was under water and resembled a massive lake. When the water of the valley got drained out through Khadanyar (Baramulla) , the huge mud deposits were left during this process which solidified and came to be known as Karewas with the passage of time.

Kashmir’s Karewas are thus massive plateaus which are dry but highly fertile. Due to its rich history , the Karewas are thus known as geological treasures which is an unnoticed heritage of Kashmiri people. The Karewas of Kashmir are so flat and massive that Srinagar international airport is located on one such plateau in district Budgam called Karewa Damodar. Due to massive urbanisation the Karewas of Kashmir are under severe threat as they are being raised to ground and bulldozed. From the last 20 to 25 years almost 30 % of Karewas in Pulwama and Budgam have been raised to ground, which is a plunder of these geological formations. The Karewas could have been developed as a tourist attraction but authorities at helm have never even thought of giving them legal protection by declaring them as heritage sites.

Elephant and Giraffe fossils in Karewas

Prof Khurshid Ahmad Parray in his research article published in Current Science Volume 100 , number 6 dated March 25th 2011 says that geological research done in various parts of Kashmir valley by several geologists has revealed that several fossils were found in upper reaches of Budgam. As per the studies undertaken by Godwin Austen 1864 , it is reported that fish scales were found in Karewas  of Goggee Pathri  and upper mountain areas of  Liddermud and Yusmarg . As reported by Patterson (1940) an elephant species called  Elephas hysudricus (now extinct) were found  in Karewas of Pulwama and Budgam areas. The article further says that fossils of  Sivatherium giganteum (extinct species of Giraffe) have been found in Samboora karewas near Pampore.

Noted geologist of Kashmir Prof Abdul Majid Bhat who has done  a great research work on Khonmoh fossil park  which is said to be a 252 million year old fossil site also has been raising his concern on destruction of Karewas and he too has been demanding that Government should initiate necessary legal frameworks to declare Karewas as heritage sites.

The continuous soil excavation from the Karewas and felling of trees in forests lead to extensive siltation of Jhelum river which then causes massive floods due to rise in the water level.  The authorities seem to be least bothered to undertake  a massive crackdown against the soil excavators who are now operating in the broad daylight across  several areas of Budgam , Pulwama and Pattan areas. The Karewas of central Kashmir’s  Budgam district  are under the threat of extinction as the soil excavation work at these sites   is not at all coming to halt  since the last more than 2 decades now. An estimated 30 to 40% of the Karewas in  Khansahib, Budgam and Chadoora areas  alone have  been raised to ground after continuous plunder by huge soil excavating machines  and JCB’s.

Qazigund Baramulla Rail Project

The destruction of Karewas began in the mid 1990’s after the Qazigund Baramulla railway project was started in Kashmir. Massive soil excavation work was taken up in Pattan , Pulwama and  Budgam  Karewa’s. Hundreds of  trucks and other load carriers were pressed into work by the various construction firms who were given contracts for this Railway project to carry the clay for creating elevated railway tracks . The karewas of Pulwama and Budgam initially became the direct target. The huge excavators thus plundered the  karewas by luring the farmers who owned land in these karewas. The muck  which has been  used  for making elevated railway tracks from Qazigund to Baramulla has 90% of the material obtained from the Karewas. The Govt could have explored constructing railway tracks on pillars as was done in case of Delhi Metro. But instead Railway engineers chose to fill almost 170 kms of valley with huge muck and clay to create railway tracks. A  beautiful  hillock  at village  Khanda in Chadoora tehsil of Budgam was raised to ground within a year or so. Chadoora , Hyathpora and Nagam Karewa which used to be  famous for best quality almond orchards  have been vandalized as demand for clay is increasing day by day. This is not at all coming to a halt. The farmers are equally responsible for this mess as they welcomed construction firms to bulldoze their karewas for petty gains.

The  saffron cultivation done on thousands  of hectares of the Karewa land especially in Pampore , Samboora , Parigam , Kaisermulla , Sarai Khampora , Kuzweira, Kultreh and a number of other villages in Pulwama and Budgam has come down drastically. In Wadipora and Kultreh villages the Karewas were vandalized by brick kilns as well as dozens of such kilns were set up in these areas. Clay from these karewas is used to make bricks thus defacing these beautiful plateaus



There is a great apprehension that Karewas of Budgam and Pulwama will further be destroyed as work on Srinagar Semi Ring Road has already been started.  Lot of  Karewa land around Ichgam , Ichkoot and Budibagh have been raised to the ground.  Govt is not making the environmental impact assessment documents public so that people would know what kind of measures National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) will take to cause minimum environmental disaster. We can’t afford to see our national heritage plundered and thus the Govt must immediately call upon NHAI to ensure no soil excavation is done around Karewas during Ring Road construction. Let us protect and preserve this geological treasure from further destruction.  At a time when  the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated Srinagar as a part of UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN), it is the duty of the Govt to ensure every bit of heritage in and around Srinagar is protected. This includes Karewas as well which has a millions of years old geological history and scientific importance….




The Dispatch is present across a number of social media platforms. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for exciting videos; join us on Facebook, Intagram and Twitter for quick updates and discussions. We are also available on the Telegram. Follow us on Pinterest for thousands of pictures and graphics. We care to respond to text messages on WhatsApp at 8082480136 [No calls accepted]. To contribute an article or pitch a story idea, write to us at [email protected] |Click to know more about The Dispatch, our standards and policies   

About the author

Avatar photo

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhatt

Muzaffar has been actively associated with Right to Information Movement in J&K which led to the enactment of Right to Information legislation in Jammu and Kashmir. He writes on the issues of Governance, Environment and Social Development.

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment