ancient-mounds-of-kashmir-valley

CONTEXT 

The karewas in the Kashmir Valley are being excavated for construction, the most recent violation took place in December 2021, when the Baramulla deputy commissioner gave consent for the excavation of karewas around Pattan village and use the clay for the construction of the Srinagar ring road.

LANDFORMS OF KASHMIR VALLEY

  • Plateau-like landforms of Kashmir Valley:The Plateau-like landforms of the Kashmir valley remain tucked away in the folds of surrounding mountains particularly the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas which borders the valley on the south west.
  • Karewa:These plateaus are called Karewa and are 13000-18000 metre thick deposits of alluvial soil and sediments such as sandstone and mudstone.

Significance of Karewas

  • Fertile patches: they are the most fertile spots in the valley.
  • Ideal for cultivation of cash crops:They are ideal for cultivation of saffron, almonds, apples and several other cash crops due to presence of sediments like sandstone and mudstone
  • Kashmir saffron: The Kashmir saffron which received geographical indication (GI) tag in 2020 for its longer and thicker stigma, deep red colour, high aroma and bitter flavour is grown on these karewas.

Formation of Karewas

  • They are believed to be fertile because of their long history of formation.
  • The Pir Panjal range was formed during the Pleistocene period (2.6 million years to 11,700 years ago), The Range blocked the natural drainage in the region and formed a lake spanning 5000 km2 
  • The water receded over the next few centuries making the way for the valley and the  formation of the karewas between the mountains.
  • The Karewa sediments today  hold fossils and remnants of many human civilisations and habitations.

Excavation for construction

  • The Karewas are now being excavated to be used in construction despite its agricultural and archaeological importance.
    • For instance, the Srinagar airport is built on the Damodar Karewa in Budgam.
    • The most recent violation took place when the clay obtained by excavation of Karewas was used for construction of Srinagar Ring Road.

 

 

CONCERNS

Why are Karewas an easy target?

  • Access to soil:Access to large amounts of soil is difficult in the Valley for development projects due to its topography and physiology.
    • The mountain ranges at the highest elevation are predominantly made up of hard rocks.
    • At the lowest point lies the valley, where the groundwater table is extremely close to the surface (6-9 m).Hence, karewas are an easy target due to their soil thickness.
  • Soil thickness of karewas: each Karewa runs for several kilometres.
    • The most of the patches are owned by individuals who use them for farming, some belong to the government; these are locally called kahcharai and are used for grazing.

Other areas of concern

  • Use of fertile soil in construction sites: various activists have criticised that such a fertile soil is used for filling at construction sites and most of the households in various districts of Kashmir Valley are dependent on the karewas for their livelihood.
  • Permanent loss: once destroyed, the karewas can never be restored.
  • Pollution: The dust from the mining of karewas settles in the low-lying areas where people live, the constant movement of diesel guzzling trucks also causes pollution.
  • Effects on topography: the mining often razes the highland to the ground and changes the entire topography of the place.
  • Siltation in Jhelum:The destruction of the karewas has also led to the enormous accumulation of silt in the Jhelum river, which runs parallel to the Pir Panjal, and its 42-km-long flood spill channel that runs between Padshahi Bagh on the outskirts of Srinagar and Wular lake in north Kashmir through Hokersar wetland reserve.
    • The flood spill channel was created in the 1920s to divert the flood discharge of the Jhelum to Wular lake and thereby protect Srinagar from getting flooded.
    • The siltation is caused due to destruction of catchment areas, which occurs because of deforestation and changes in land use like clay mining.
    • It has also reduced the capacity of flood spill and as a result Srinagar experienced massive floods in 2014.

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