Over a surface area of 65,600 km2, 19.5 million people live in Sri Lanka. Water bodies, a considerable portion of which are man-made, cover about 4 percent of the land. The terrain of the island is mostly made up of coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south central part.
Sri Lanka has more than 100 water basins, varying from 10 km2 to over 10,000 km2 in size. The Ruhuna Basins, which are located at the southern part of the island, were featured in United Nations World Water Development Report (WWDR).
The climate of Sri Lanka is tropical and heavily influenced by monsoons that bring rain throughout the year. Rainfall totals range from under 1,000 mm to over 5,000 mm. Sri Lanka’s groundwater resources are considered minor compared to its surface water resources. The existing groundwater potential in Sri Lanka is widely used for domestic, small-scale irrigation, industrial and other uses. However, in recent years, due to increased irrigation and population growth, both shallow and deep aquifers have been subject to over-extraction. Consequently, the drying up of domestic wells during dry periods has become more common.
There is a rich diversity of ecosystems in Sri Lanka, including wetlands, natural forests and marine and coastal ecosystems. Sri Lanka is considered one of the world’s twenty-five ‘Biodiversity Hotspots’ (i.e. very rich in biodiversity). Overall, there are three Biosphere reserves, one World Heritage site, three Ramsar sites and forty-one wetland sites included in the Asian Wetland Directory. Coastal ecosystems are diverse, but their fragmentation, in addition to that of forests, is extremely high.
Sixteen of Sri Lanka’s coastal lagoons are classified as threatened and constitute nearly half of the country’s threatened wetlands. Environmental degradation of the coastal zone is a major hazard faced by Sri Lanka as an island state. During the last two decades, there has been increasing pressure for development in the coastal zone, particularly for tourism and recreational purposes, near shore fisheries, fish farming, industrial development and housing. Communities have exploited the use of natural resources, such as sand and coral, on a commercial basis.
Development pressures have also led to the reclamation of estuarial, lagoon and marsh waters and the unrestricted disposal of untreated sewage, leading to major pollution problems. The main threat to natural ecosystems, however, is population growth and migration, reducing the available habitat for ecosystems to thrive. Some other threats to the island’s biodiversity are natural disasters, soil erosion, sedimentation and large-scale sand mining.
Last Updated on: 19-05-2010