Nature Volunteers - Sri Lanka


   General facts                                                                                                                                                                                   

Name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

President: Mr. Mahinda Rajapakse (2005)

Population: (2005 est.) 20,064,776 (growth rate: 0.8%)

Nationality: noun: Sri Lankan(s) - adjective: Sri Lankan

Capital: Colombo, population 2,436,000 (metropolitan area), 656,100 (city)

Other large cities: Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia: 214,300; Moratuwa: 181,000; Kandy: 112,400

Monetary unit: Sri Lanka Rupee (SL)

Languages: Sinhala 74% (official and national), Tamil 18% (national), other 8%; English is commonly used in government and spoken competently by about 10%

Ethnicity: Sinhalese 74%, Tamil 18%, Moor 7%, Burgher, Malay, and Vedda 1%

Religions: Buddhist 70%, Hindu 15%, Christian 8%, Islam 7% (1999)

Literacy rate: 92% (2003 est.)

HIV/AIDS: adult prevalence rate less than 0.1% (2001 est.)

Independence Day: February, 4th 1948 (from UK) = national holiday

Member of the Commonwealth of Nations

International disputes: none


Location: Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India

Area: total 65,610 km² (water: 870 km², land: 64,740 km²)

Coastline: 1,340 km

Terrain: mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior

Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m; highest point: Pidurutalagala 2,524 m


Seasons: two monsoons; the south-west monsoon and the north-east monsoon (alternate every 6 month)

Temperatures: Coast: between 24°C to 32°C, Mountains: 12°C to 20°C

Climate: Coast: high temperatures with high air humidity; flat inland (rice field): dry climate; mountains (vast forest and tea plantations): hot days and cold nights

High season: southern and western coast: March to October; eastern coast: October to April

Rain: warm and short rain showers; long-lasting rains are only exceptional


GDP/PPP: (2003 est.) $73.49 billion; per capita $3,700

Real growth rate: 5.2%

Inflation: 9%

Unemployment: 8%

Agriculture: rice, sugarcane, grains, pulse, oilseed, spices, tea, rubber, coconuts; milk, eggs, hides, beef

Labour force: 6.6 million (1998); services 45%, agriculture 38%, industry 17% (1998 est.)

Industries: rubber processing, tea, coconuts, and other agricultural commodities; clothing, cement, petroleum refining, textiles, tobacco

Natural resources: limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower

Exports: $5.269 billion (f.o.b., 2003 est.): textiles and apparel, tea, diamonds, coconut products, petroleum products

Imports: $6.626 billion (f.o.b., 2003 est.): textiles, mineral products, petroleum, foodstuffs, machinery and equipment

Major trading partners: U.S., UK, Belgium, Germany, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Iran

   Flora and Fauna                                                                                                                                                                              

Typical vegetation: woods, grassy steppes, rice fields, tea plantations, palm groves and rainforest (untouched)

National parks: apes, crocodiles, wild pigs, stags, peacocks, buffaloes, jackals, bears, turtles, snakes, iguanas, leopards, many bird species (endemic), wild elephants and many others


Current issues: deforestation; soil erosion; wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanisation; coastal degradation from mining activities and increased pollution; freshwater resources being polluted by industrial wastes and sewage runoff; waste disposal; air pollution in Colombo

   Arts and crafts                                                                                                                                                                               

Pottery, batik works, bone laces, woven baskets and mattresses, forging products of metal, silver and gold with precious stones, enamel paintings, hand made masks and soft kadur wood (mainly from Ambalangoda), etc.


Railways: total 1,508 km (2002)

Roads: total 96,695 km; paved 91,860 km; unpaved 4,835 km (1999)

Waterways: 430 km; navigable by shallow-draft craft

Ports and harbours: Colombo, Galle, Jaffna, Trincomalee

Airports: 15 (2002) small; 1 international (Bandaranaike International Airport Colombo)