Environmental Impacts of Tsunami and it’s Rehabilitation

Prof. D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe
Department of Forestry & Environmental Science, University of Sri JayewardenepuraTsunami, the Killer Wave swept nearly two thirds of the coast of Sri Lanka on 26th of December, 2004. The coastline especially the Eastern and the South Western suffered a major blow, rendering more than 40,000 dead, about 900,000 displaced. Most of the physical infrastructure including houses, hotels, and common facilities like railway, roads, buses, bridges, power and telecommunications were damaged. Many people living on the shoreline and adjacent areas lost their livelihoods.

A rapid assessment of the damage of the coastline starting from Dehiwala in the South Western Coast all the way to Jaffna Peninsula showed that the almost all the aspects of environment, including economic, socio-cultural and ecological suffered a great blow from the Tsunami waves. The economic loss was assessed in the range of more than 1.5 billion US $ while the socio-cultural damage could not be quantified. With regard to ecological environment, many items which contributed to the ecological stability of the coastal ecosystem were damaged. This includes mangroves, sea grass beds, coral reefs, estuaries and bays along with their fauna and flora, vegetation on the beach and also those in home gardens. Well over 500 million kg of rubble were created by the Tsunami and posed an enormous challenge to the solid waste management system. Debris and sea sand, whether deposited by the Tsunami or by clean up operations has blocked drainage channels in many areas. More than 15,000 wells have become unusable due to salinisation. The excessive pumping of fresh water from inland areas has resulted in salt intrusion to ground water supplies. Several coastal water bodies have been contaminated with salt water, floating material, faecal matter and black sediments and need restoration. The original ecosystem in these areas have been destroyed, natural purification has ceased resulting in highly toxic water bodies.Among the coastal and marine ecosystems, shallow fringing coral reefs suffered more damage compared to the deep ones. Intact coral reefs acted as buffers to minimize the Tsunami damage. Estuaries often acted as channels of entry for the tsunami facilitating damage and salt water intrusion to inland areas. Frontline mangroves were badly damaged while deeper ones were left intact and dense mangroves converted the wave into a flood. Lagoons absorbed tsunami energy, but in doing so lost seasonal sand barriers, their banks scoured. Large vegetated sand dunes stopped tsunami intrusion. Beaches were eroded and scoured losing width and height, mainly from tsunami backwash. There was much debris on most beaches.There was severe damage in near shore areas, including seashore Pandanus and creeper vegetation and inland Palmyrah trees with near shore coconuts less affected, as were inland economic trees. Casuarina plantations proved vulnerable to tsunami damage and by themselves had little protective value, though in place they helped stabilize sand dunes which themselves moderated the Tsunami. Alien invasive species have been spread by the Tsunami to new areas. The paper also lists recommendations for minimizing the environmental damage in the tsunami rehabilitation programme.
Theme talk made at the Tenth Annual Forestry and Environment Symposium held at Kabool Lanka International Training Center, Thulhiriya on 2nd and 3rd 2005 organized by Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka

Preparation of a Country Environmental Profile for Sri Lanka for European Union (EU) Sri Lanka economic cooperation – part2

S.W. Newman* and D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe**
* School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds L 52 9JT UK
** Department of Forestry & Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura

Full Paper Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


The main objective of the Country Environmental Profile is to identify and assess environmental issues to be considered during the preparation of a Country Strategy Paper, which will directly or indirectly influence European Commission (EC) cooperation activities. A secondary aim was to guide bilateral rehabilitation assistance and regional cooperation at regional levels eg. Asia wide programs or at sub regional level such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). In order to mainstream environmental considerations into EC country programming and projects it is essential to note that key environmental indicators are clearly specified in Millennium Development Goal (MDG) number seven which is ‘Ensuring Environmental Sustainability’. It is also important to recognize that the environment is often the engine of development for both the urban and rural poor as opposed to something that should be protected for posterity.

State of the Environment

Country Description
The island of Sri Lanka lies between 6 and 10 degrees North latitude and between 80 and 82 degrees East. It has an area of 65,610 square kilometers and a population of 19,462,000 (mid 2004). The population is very uneven with 60% located in one quarter of the island known as the wet zone. Over 72% of the population live in rural areas. The population density in 2004 was 310 persons per square kilometer.

The economy registered an annual growth of 5.4% in the real Gross Domestic Product in 2004. GNP per capita is over US$800 per capita which is ahead of some South Asian Countries. 6.6% and 45.4% of the population earned below $1 and $2 per day respectively in 1995. (2004 Annual report of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka)
The island has a very rich cultural heritage with productive agricultural kingdoms starting before the 4th century BC. The indigenous knowledge of agriculture, water management and medicine is of global importance (Footprints of Our Heritage, UNESCO).

Physical Environment

The island has a central mountainous massif and a vast plain surrounding it, giving a significant variation in climate. The annual temperature in the coastal belt ranges from 26 to 35 degrees centigrade while in the central highland it ranges from 15 to 19 degrees. As a tropical island there is little temporal variation in temperature. The annual rainfall varies from 1000 mm in arid areas in the south west and north west of the island to over 5000 mm in a few places on the South West slopes of the Central Highlands. The 3000 mm isohyet divides the country into the wet zone covering the south western part and the dry zone covering the north and east of the highlands. The seasons contain two mosoons. The Yala monsoon brings rain to the south west during May to August. The Maha monsoon brings rain to the North and the East from October to January (Arjuna’s Atlans of Sri Lanka). A breakdown of Land use types is given below in Table 1 which is taken from the 1998 Statistical Compendium. The highest mountain is Mount Pidurutalagala at 2524m.

Table 1: Land Use Types and their extents in Sri Lanka

Land use type Extent in ha
Built up lands 29,190
Agricultural lands 3,710,880
Forest lands 1,759,840
Range lands 593,520
Wet bodies 61,810
Barren lands 77,480
Total 6,523,240

Source: Statistical Abstract, 2003

Biological Environment

At the beginning of the 20th Century about 70% of the island was covered by forest. By 1998 this had shrunk to 24%. 82% of the land is theoretically controlled by the state, but in reality there has been considerable official and unofficial encroachment and the actual level of state control is currently unclear.
Sri Lanka is considered to be the most bio-diverse country in Asia per unit area and is a global biodiversity hotspot. About half of its native species are endemic, including all freshwater crabs, 90% of amphibians, 50% of freshwater fish, 26% of flowering plants and 14% of its mammals. There are over 3368 species of flowering plant and over 400 species of spiders. Sri Lanka has very high ecosystem diversity. The island also has high agricultural biodiversity (Biodiversity Conservation in Sri Lanka, A Framework for Action, 1999).

Critical Environmental Issues in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is an island nation endowed with many natural resources. It also has a long history of living in harmony with the environment. Some classic examples of this practice is the world famous water management system established by the period of olden kings, homegardens especially in the hill country etc. However, with the advent of foreign invasions and commercialisation of products and services, the harmony between the environment and the humans was greatly impaired resulting in environmental degradation. Among the major environmental issues in the country, land degradation, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, air pollution, declining availability of fresh water and deteriorating water quality, degradation of marine and coastal habitats and solid waste disposal can be mentioned (State of the Environment, Sri Lanka, 2001).

Sustainability of the environment has been severely affected by land degradation. The soils suffer from varying degrees of erosion and degradation mainly due to rapid rates of deforestation, poor irrigation and drainage practice, inadequate soil conservation, chena cultivation and vegetable cultivation in steep slopes and overgrazing. It has been estimated that about 46% of the land in the country has been affected by soil erosion. High population density has reduced the land: man ratio from 2.25 ha in 1880 to 0.38 ha in 2000.

Deforestation is also considered as a major environmental issue in the country. Forest cover has decreased from 44% in 1956 to just over 22% at present while in the biodiversity rich wet lowlands it is only 3% of the land area. The annual rate of deforestation is estimated to be about 3%. With the decline of natural ecosystems, biodiversity is also greatly affected. Over 690 flowering plant species and 90 fern species have been assigned threatened status (State of the Environment, Sri Lanka, 2001). Among animals, about 75% of vertebrate groups and about 50 – 100% invertebrate groups are under threat (IUCN Red Data Book, 2000).

One of the most important implications of economic growth is the increased demand for energy. The use of energy in power, transportation and related sectors had increased air pollution. Further, urbanization and industrialization has increased the urban air pollution. Significant health threats result from the outdoor as well as indoor air pollution resulting from the use of low quality solid fuels such as coal, wood, crop residues.

Although well endowed with water resources, waters are getting polluted especially due to improper management of the same. The major pressures on water resources arise from agriculture, urbanisation and industrialization. Concentrations of chloride, nitrate and potassium in drinking water and other sources have substantially increased. Untreated domestic sewage is causing health problems due to pathogenic organisms. In addition to this, salinisation affects ground water resources due to the intrusion of seawater (State of the Environment in Sri Lanka, 2002).

Sri Lanka being a island nation is framed with 1585 km of coastline. Marine resources provide more than 100,000 employment opportunities and are very vital to the socio economic status of the country. Some of the most important problems in the coastal zone are costal erosion and coastal pollution. Coastal pollution occurs both from land based and sea based sources. Construction of unauthorized structures on the coast, river and beach sand mining, coral mining are some of the activities, which contribute to the coastal erosion. Further, among the sea-based activities, contamination with oil from marine transport systems, green house effect and temperature rise in the seawaters is also significant. Loss of coastal habitats include substantial loss of mangrove forests especially for the construction of shrimp ponds and for paddy rice cultivation with negative impacts on commercial fisheries as well as stability of land. It also contributes substantially to the loss of important ecosystems (Coastal Zone Action Plan, 2003).

About 25% of the population in the country live in urban environments, which account to only 0.5% of the land area. The rise of cities has been accompanied by a proliferation of slums and squatter settlements without access to basic infrastructure, clean water and sanitation with associated health risks. Further the affluence of urban areas has resulted in congestion, increasing air and water pollution, loss of productive agricultural land, conversion of environmentally valuable land to non-agricultural purposes, over extraction of ground water resources etc. Management of solid and liquid waste are critical issues especially in these urban areas. Although Local Authorities are entrusted with the collection and disposal of solid waste, inadequate resources and dumping sites has hindered the efficiently of the operation. Despite the fact that there are many awareness campaigns on effective waste management the public in general seems to turn a blind ear to this which aggravates the problem further (State of the Environment in Sri Lanka, 2002).

Special issues

The conflict waged by Tamil separatists in the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka since 1983 experienced a break with a ceasefire on the 22 February 2002. The donors support meeting on humanitarian aid, held in Oslo in November 2002 consolidated steps towards peace, with the donor conference in Tokyo in June 2003 resulting in pledges amounting to € 4,5 billion.

The tsunami that hit the countries around the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004 was one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. After Indonesia, Sri Lanka has suffered the most from the tsunami. The tsunami has destroyed or damaged: 130,000 houses, 168 public schools, four universities, 18 vocational centres; 92 local clinics, hospitals and drug stores; significant losses in power, transportation (roads and railways), water supply and sanitation. Sri Lanka’s tourism industry has been very hard hit since the disaster occurred during one of their busiest periods of the year destroying key infrastructure
Both of the above issues have had profound environmental effects.

Preparation of a Country Environmental Profile for Sri Lanka for European Union (EU) Sri Lanka economic cooperation – part 3

S.W. Newman* and D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe**
* School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds L 52 9JT UK
** Department of Forestry & Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura

Full Paper Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Methodology adopted

The approach taken in compiling the profile included literature review, a field trip to the East and the North (Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Vavuniya and Jaffna) and a participatory workshop on environmental potentials for Sri Lanka 2006-2013. The field trip consisted of meeting with all government agents and the North East Provincial Council. The assessment attempted to deliver the following results;

? An assessment of the environment identifying key environmental factors influencing the Country’s development and the responses to these
? An assessment of national environmental policy and legislation, institutional structures and capacity and the involvement of civil society in environmental issues
? An assessment of past and anticipated future trends of environmental indicators
? An overview of past and ongoing international cooperation in the environmental sector
? Recommendations and as far as possible guidelines or criteria for mainstreaming environmental concerns in priority development areas


Critical environmental issues as per the MDG targets

The Table 2 shows the progress made with regard to environmental targets according to the views obtained from the stakeholder workshop which had representations from both Government, Non government and Private Sector. The MDG targets were set taking 1990 as the baseline. Further, this was supplemented by the existing reports and observations made during many field visits including the Tsunami affected areas in North and East.

Table 2: Results of the observations and views of the stakeholder workshop on the country’s position in meeting the MDG targets

Environmental Policy, Strategy and Legislation

The need for clear overarching environmental action plans and policy aimed at addressing environmental issues has been clear to the government since the early 1980’s. National Environmental Action Plans (NEAP) have been in place since 1992. The third and last NEAP was for the period 1998-2001.
National Environmental Legislation

There appears to be a very high number of acts and ordinances to do with rational management of natural resources and the environment. In discussions with Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (MENR) the only act which appeared to require high priority further development was concerned with soil conservation.

The stakeholder workshop involved an assessment of the adequacy of policy in relation to the key environmental issues. The analysis of the adequacy of policy and law was based upon its effectiveness in dealing with the problem, which in turn requires adequate monitoring and enforcement along with the involvement and compliance of the private sector The results are shown below in Table 3 with the percentage of yes answers

Table 3: The results on the status of the effectiveness of the environment policies and laws in Sri Lanka

The main conclusion is that enforcement is the main problem and to a lesser extent monitoring. It is clear that there is a role for the private sector in terms of environmental improvement of business operations and helping to set enforceable regulations. Forestry as a sector has had large donor support. Perhaps this is reflected in the comparatively high scores that the issue obtained
in policy, law, monitoring and enforcement. Drinking water monitoring had a reasonably high score.

There does appear to be good public participation in the drafting of laws. The free press is a good vehicle for this. There is less participation in the drafting of national policy. There appears to be a long way to go in terms of the influence of village level plans on divisional and district level actions.

International Environmental Legislation

Sri Lanka has signed and ratified many international treaties, policies and laws too. Most of this is straightforward apart from the convention on biological diversity which requires a very high level of coordination between several ministries. Based on the information procured the following analysis and recommendations were arrived at which is shown in Table 4.

Table 4: Recommendations made by various international treaties and conventions to the private sector and their level of progress made.

2001 recommendations to the private sector Impressions of progress by 2005 and suggestions
Make concessionary finance available to smallholder farmers Still problems of threshold
Encourage private sector investment in forest plantations Limited
Formulate a policy to promote private sector investment in renewable energy projects Very limited with problems of low prices paid for selling electricity to the grid
Issue environmental licenses through certified private licensed institutions Limited
Establish a fund to finance private sector investment in environmental management activities/projects Limited
Encourage private sector involvement in environmental insurance and financial guarantee activities Limited
Make privatisation programme environmentally compatible Limited
Institute environmental entrepreneur of the year awards Achieved
Involve community organisations in land alienation decisions Limited

Spatial integrated planning

There are marked differences in the density of poverty, ethnicity, and livelihood across the country. There are also marked differences in agro-ecological environment and across the country. In order to improve perception of the role of environment in sectoral development and the links with poverty production and economic group, it is essential to develop an environmental (sustainable) development zone approach. This is currently absent. The following method was used to develop a zonal approach based upon literature analysis, expert consultation, and testing at the workshop:

• The tsunami zone is distinct in its environmental problems and potentials, available funds through new political structures and livelihood opportunities
• The municipality or dense urban zone is distinct in its environmental problems and potentials, type of poverty, and potentials for business development
• The coastal non-tsunami zone is distinct in its environmental problems and potentials and has varied livelihood potentials and political structures
• The high potential zone has the greatest availability of water biodiversity and plantation industry yet has poverty at high density levels
• The double crop paddy zone has a good agricultural base with minor and major irrigation activities
• The remaining low population and low rainfall zone has relatively low population and therefore poverty density has low production potential but high potential for extensive extractive reserves and agroforestry.

The table 5 shows some of the key features of this zone, key environmental potentials and key strategic approaches to poverty alleviation.

The Table 6 shows the activities which can be enhanced in the above zones;

Table 6: The activities which can be enhanced in the above divided zones

Conclusions and Recommendations

1. The country strategy for EC funding should be guided by the environmental development zone approach in order to maximise impact and sustainability in poverty reduction and economic cooperation as per Table 6.
2. Environmental concerns should be mainstreamed into development thinking through four approaches; environment considered as a business opportunity, by recognizing that MDG Goal 7 has key indicators of judicious environmental development, by establishing an environmental development strategy for international and national public and private partnerships in functionally important development zones, by approaching poverty reduction through a livelihood approach.
3. Any programme or project in the tsunami zone should have an environmental assessment.
4. The housing, road and energy sectors could have the highest impact on poverty elimination linked to the creation of new environmental opportunities
5. Economic cooperation between Europe and Sri Lanka should focus on environmental business and social enterprise and be guided by a study of win:win:win business partnership models
6. Any area development project should consider organisational development and delegated management approaches rather than purely increasing government “capacity”. Monitoring the constraint to environmental business and environmental business partnerships should be a central part of design.
7. An environmental assessment should be carried out as soon as possible as many tsunami rehabilitation interventions are and will have significant negative impact. Tsunami recovery in most areas will take between 5 and 10 years given current rates of progress
8. On a Regional perspective, the tsunami condition on Asia wide programs should be extended for five years
9. Links between Asia and European environmental business in building, roads, solid waste/sanitation and energy should be a priority and research partnerships in these areas should be encouraged.


Arjuna’s Atlas of Sri Lanka.
Bioenergy Association of Sri Lanka (2005) The Dendro Option for Future Energy Security of Sri Lanka. Information Note.
Central Bank of Sri Lanka (2004) Annual Report
Central Environmental Authority (1995) Index to Environmental Legislation in Sri Lanka: 1-35
Coast Conservation Department (2003) Revised Coastal Zone Management Plan, Sri Lanka 2003
Department of Census and Statistics in Sri Lanka (2003) Statistical Abstract: 1-445
Green Network of Sri Lanka (2002) People’s Report on Sustainable Development in Sri Lanka: 1-97
IUCN (2003) Wetland Conservation in Sri Lanka, Proceedings of the National Symposium on Wetland Conservation and Management, June 19-20, 20003: 1-75
Ministry of Finance and Planning (2005) Sri Lanka New Development Strategy, Framework for Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction.
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2001) State of the Environment, Sri Lanka 2001: 1-106
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2002) State of the Environment in Sri Lanka, A National Report Prepared for the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, 2002: 1-245
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (1999) Conservation of Biological Diversity in Sri Lanka, A Framework for Action: 121
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2003) Caring for the Environment 2003 – 2007 – Path to Sustainable Development: 1-152
Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (2002) Sri Lanka’s Middle Path to Sustainable Development in the 21st Century, National Report of Sri Lanka to the World Summit on Sustainable Development: 1-84
Ministry of Policy Development and Implementation (2003) Current Issues by Sector: 1-311
Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Forestry (1995) Sri Lanka Forestry Sector Master Plan: 1-508
National Science Foundation (2000) Natural Resources of Sri Lanka 2000: 1-306
Ranasinghe, D.M.S.H.K. and Huxley, P.A. (1996) Agroforestry for Sustainable Development in Sri Lanka, University of Wales, UK: 1-275
UNESCO (1997) Footprints of Our Heritage, Sri Lanka National Commission for UNESCO, Isurupaya, Battaramulla: 1-181
UNDP (2004) Millennium Development Goals – Ensuring Environmental Sustainability (prepared by Hemanthi Ranasinghe and S.T. De Silva): 1- 164.

Preparation of a Country Environmental Profile for Sri Lanka for European Union (EU) Sri Lanka economic cooperation – part 1

S.W. Newman* and D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe**
* School of Biology, University of Leeds, Leeds L 52 9JT UK
** Department of Forestry & Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura

Full Paper Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


A Country Environmental Profile was prepared with the aim to identify and assess environmental issues to be considered during the preparation of a Country Strategy Paper which will directly or indirectly influence European Union (EC) cooperation activities.

The approach taken in compiling the profile included a comprehensive literature review, a field trip to some Tsunami affected districts including Ampara, Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Jaffna Districts and a participatory workshop on environmental potentials for Sri Lanka from 2006 – 2013.

The study revealed that among the key environmental issues in the country, Land degradation, deforestation, Degradation of coastal and marine resources, Loss of Biodiversity, Solid Waste Disposal and Surface and ground water pollution are important. In the North East, in addition to these, War has become the major factor affecting development. Although funds are being allocated for development activities after the onset of peace (temporary!) political instability has led to limited investment especially by the private sector. With regard to resources available, issues, opportunities available etc. the country can be largely divided into zones; the coastal zone taking about 24% of the country’s land area, the densely populated resource rich (water, cash crops and minerals) south west quartile surrounded by sparsely populated resource poor land dominated by low returns from subsistence agriculture. The North Central Province where there are major irrigation schemes and parts of Jaffna with high value fruit and vegetables. Environmental problems have been made worse on most of the coast by the Tsunami and some Tsunami Rehabilitation methods could exacerbate matters.

Among the major recommendations for the Country Strategy, the division of the country into environmental development zones in order to maximize impact and sustainability in poverty reduction and economic cooperation is important. They are Tsunami Affected Areas, Municipalities, Coastal Non Tsunami areas, Areas with irrigation schemes to facilitate high agricultural production, South West Country which has high potential in terms of resources and also threats due to population pressure and the rest of the country having low rainfall and low population density. In each zone the character of the zone, key environmental technologies are described. Among the other recommendations, it was emphasized that economic cooperation between Europe and Sri Lanka should focus on environmental business and social enterprise and be guided by a study of win:win:win business partnership models. Any area development project should consider organizational development and delegate management approaches rather than purely increasing government capacity. Monitoring the constraints to environmental business partnerships should be a central part of design along with recording livelihood perceptions of important environmental limitations. The housing, road and energy sectors could have the highest impact on poverty elimination linked to the creation of new environmental opportunities. In conclusion, economic cooperation between Europe and Sri Lanka should focus on environmental business and social enterprise and be guided by a study of win:win:win business partnership models.

Key words: European Union, Profile, Tsunami, Environment, Strategy

Ranasinghe, D.M.S.H.K., Professor, Dept. of Forestry & Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Nugegoda (Sri Lanka) Tel: + 94 11 2 804685 Fax 4724395 email: [email protected]

Past symposia organised by Department of Forestry and Environmental Science

1st Symposium (1995)
Theme: Forestry for Development
15 – 16 December 1995 at Corel Gardens Hotel, Hikkaduwa (Abstracts)

2nd Symposium (1996)
Theme: Management and Sustainable Utilization of Forest Resources
6 –7 December 1996 at Tangerine Beach Hotel, Kalutara (Abstracts)

3rd Symposium (1997)
Theme: Development in Forest Sciences in 1997
12 – 13 December 1997 1t Corel Gardens Hotel, Hikkaduwa (Abstracts)

4th Symposium (1998)
Theme: Development in Environmental Sciences in 1998
3 –4 December 1998 at Hotel Riverina (Abstracts)

5th Symposium (1999)
Theme: Challenges in Natural Resource Management
10 –11 December 1999 at Corel Gardens Hotel, Hikkaduwa (Abstracts)

6th Symposium (2000)
Theme: Development in Environmental Sciences in Sri Lanka 2000
15 – 16 December 2000 at Le Kandyan Hotel, Kandy (Abstracts)

7th Symposium (2001)
Theme: Research Innovations for the Development of Forest and
Environment Industries
28 – 29 December 2001 at University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Nugegoda (Abstracts)

8th Symposium (2002)
Theme: Sustainable Environmental Management Towards a Better
Quality of Life
13 – 14 December 2002 at Corel Gardens Hotel, Hikkaduwa (Abstracts)

9th Symposium(2004)
Theme: Eco-Friendly Approaches Towards Sustainable Development
27 – 28 February 2004 at University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Nugegoda (List of titles | Abstracts)

10th Symposium (2005)
Theme: Forestry & Environmental Science for Sustainable Development
2 -3 December 2005 at Kabool Lanka, Thulhiriya (List of titles | Abstracts)

11th Symposium (2006)
22 -23 December 2006 at Villa Ocean View Hotel, Kalutara (Prorgam and Images | Abstracts)

12th Symposium (2007)
20 November -1 December 2007 at Tangerine Beach Hotel, Kalutara (Prorgam and Images | Abstracts)

13th Symposium (2008)
Theme: Developments in Forestry and Environment Management in 2008
27 – 28 December 2008 at Tangerine Beach Hotel, Kalutara (Prorgam and Images | Abstracts)

14th Symposium (2009)
Theme: Developments in Forestry and Environment Management in 2009
18 – 19 December 2009 at University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka (Abstracts)

13th Symposium (2010)
Theme: Developments in Forestry and Environment Management in 2010
26 – 27 November 2010 at University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka (Full Papers | Abstracts)

Symposium Organising Committee (SOC)
Department of Forestry and Environmental Science
University of Sri Jayewardenepura
Nugegoda, Sri Lanka

Tel:+94 112804685         Fax:+94 112802914                 E-mail: fesympo at gmail.com or contact us
+94 112802695-6 ext.415, 408 +94 112802937


“The density of both natural and cultural assets in a small island is unique and, provide a strong foundation for an ecotourism industry, as it is relatively easy for a visitor to obtain a very rich and rewarding holiday experience in a short period of time.” 

Chandra de Silva
Founder President- Ecotourism Society of Sri Lanka (ESSL)
Board Member – The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Washington DC.
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Director/CEO – Ranweli Holiday Village


Sri Lanka’s planned tourism started in 1965 on a beach model which is generally referred to as sun, sea and sand tourism. This classical model of tourism development was used by global lending agencies – World Bank and IDB to provide employment and generate foreign exchange earnings in some third world countries where sandy beaches were identified as a resource.

Countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia which viewed beach tourism as a development tool on the mass market beach model were becoming increasingly disillusioned with the economic leakage of tourist dollars and the negative, social and environmental impacts of mass tourism.

Mounting criticism of the collateral damage caused by mass tourism led the World Bank and IDB , which had invested heavily in large tourism projects , to conclude that tourism is not a sound development strategy. In the late 1970s, both institutions closed down their tourism departments and ceased lending for tourism. They only moved back into providing loans for tourism projects in the 1990s, this time under the rubric of ecotourism – (“Protecting Eden” by Martha Honey, July/August 2003 in “Environment”.)

In this context it has to be noted that the Sri Lanka Tourist Board has recognized this new segment of tourism and changed Its slogan to “beyond beaches, culture, nature, adventure” which fits very well with ecotourism.

The devastation of the Tsunami made it even more important for Sri Lanka to develop nature and cultural tourism with these resources distributed inland away from the mass tourism destinations along the coast.

Sri Lanka is a tropical island with total area of 65,610 sq.km. and a coastline extending over 1,585 km. Her natural environment is famed for its great scenic beauty and diversity. It ranges from clear blue coastal waters, coral reefs and sandy beaches on one hand to primeval forests, wetlands and mountain environments on the other. Super-imposed upon this are historic and cultural sites of antiquity going back to over 2000 years.

This rich blend of natural and cultural wealth represents a microcosm of many large countries. The density of both natural and cultural assets in a small island is unique and, provide a strong foundation for an ecotourism industry, as it is relatively easy for a visitor to obtain a very rich and rewarding holiday experience in a short period of time.

It was these striking attributes that, nearly 800 years ago, prompted Marco Polo, the famous European traveller and, perhaps, Sri Lanka’s first European tourist, to give expression to his wonderment in words that are still true today.

” On leaving the island of Andaman and sailing a thousand miles a little south of west, the Traveller reaches Ceylon, which is undoubtedly the finest island of its size in all the world”.


Tourism sector integrates a wide range of economic activities and is regarded as worlds’ largest industry. Over the last few decades, tourism has been one of the consistent growth industries. 808 Million took a holiday in a foreign country in 2005 (WTO press release26.1.06).

According to a paper prepared by the World Tourism Organisation (WTO), for the world summit on sustainable development (WSSD) Johannesburg, 2002. in addition to strong overall expansion, the development of tourism is characterized by continuing geographical spread and diversification of tourist destinations. While in 1950 the top 15 tourist destinations, all in Western Europe and North America, attracted 97 per cent of the world’s total arrivals, by 1999 this figure had fallen by 35% to 62%, with market shares increasing for developing countries and economies in transition, particularly in South-East Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, and Latin America.


Some key qualitative development trends in tourism include: increased market segmentation; development of new forms of tourism, especially those related to nature, wildlife, rural areas and culture; and introduction of new programmes in traditional package tours. Consumers’ motivations and behaviour are increasingly characterized by a more selective choice of destination, greater attention to the tourism experience and its quality, and a greater sensitivity to the environment, traditional culture and local people at the destinations.

The increase of market share to nature and culture will be over 300 Million of international arrivals – taking 35percent of 808 million arrivals in 2005 as a base – Such large numbers engaging in nature and cultural tourism is bound to create massive problems of environmental degradation both physical and social if not managed with sensitivity and cultural integrity.

Consequently, in order to minimize these impacts authentic ecotourism which is regarded as the most sustainable component of sustainable tourism seems to be the answer. Sri Lanka must take advantage of this trend and be ready to cater for ecotourism which encompasses nature and cultural tourism.

Related article
What is ecotoursm?

What is Ecotourism

“Ecotourism is responsible travel to natural and cultural areas, which conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of the local people. “

Chandra de Silva
Founder President- Ecotourism Society of Sri Lanka (ESSL)
Board Member – The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) Washington DC.
Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Director/CEO – Ranweli Holiday Village’

Ecotourism is an exciting niche market that combines the pleasure of discovering and understanding spectacular fauna, flora and cultural sites a holiday in the educational periphery combined with conservation and welfare of the community, In contrast to the pleasure periphery based on consumerism offered by mass tourism.

The term ecotourism first appeared in the 1970s, a decade during which emerged the rise of a global environmental movement and a convergence of demand for sustainable and socially responsible forms of tourism. With a history deeply rooted in the conservation movement ecotourism has provided a highly strategic source of revenue to natural and cultural areas that need protection. Further, ecotourism could be used as a strategy for poverty alleviation since these assets are often located in peripheral areas.

The word ‘ecotourism’ has become a buzz word and a marketing tool for spurious products referred to as “green washing” in ecotourism literature. Ecotourism should be developed with ecological and sociological sensitivity in order to achieve the principles on which it is based, namely:

  • Responsible travel to natural and cultural areas,
  • which conserves the environment and
  • sustains the well-being of the local people.

Ecotourism ranges from a casual walk through undisturbed forests to exploration and study of unique natural and cultural features in remote areas.

An important product of ecotourism is the eco lodge coupled with facilities based on nature and culture as operations are different from conventional tourism.


Ecolodges- the lodging facility of ecotourists- are generally small units of 10 – 15 rooms constructed with local building material and traditional methods. An ecolodge could be constructed with wattle and daub with village labour and decorated with local artifacts to create an indigenous flair. They have to be built in harmony with the natural environment in spirit and design.


During the last decade ecotourism properties have been constructed around the world in proximity to forests and cultural centers which can extend to over 100 rooms provided the spatial dimension is taken into consideration and constructed on the principles of carrying capacity. Carrying capacity means that some use or development limit exists which when exceeded, begins the process of environmental degradation.


A global example is Kingfisher Bay Resort and Village (KBRV) located in Frazer island in Queensland . Frazer island is 180,000 Hectares in extent with woodlands and a rainforest. KBRV is a land mark in the ecotourism industry. It includes a 152 room resort , 75 residential villas and a 120 bed wilderness lodge , staff and shopping villages constructed on a scheme sympathetic to the natural shapes of the island with environmental, social and economic sustainability, landscaping and interior design.

The philosophy behind the project was that Frazer island would be the primary motivation for guests to visit the resort. The antithesis of the approach of most of the beach hotels, concrete castles designed to be fully self contained and internally focused.


Conventional tourism often involves substantial ‘leakages’ of income out of the country as costly items for construction, furnishings and décor, food and beverages are central to the construction and operation of traditional hotels. World Bank estimates that the leakage is around 50% – 70%.

Ecotourists do not expect accommodations, food or night life that meet the standard of comfort or luxury held by other groups of tourists. For ecotourists living with local conditions, customs and food ‘enrich’ their vacation experiences. They are well educated and discerning travellers looking for knowledge based holidays, and engage in activities, such as bird watching, nature and cultural tours etc. for which expert interpreters (guides) are engaged.

Thus, most of the money remain in the country – particularly in peripheral areas, stimulating economic activity and growth in the rural sector. Leakage out of the country is therefore minimal.

Local communities have the most at stake and therefore most to loose, in the emerging ecotourism market place. As globalization makes local economic control increasingly difficult, ecotourism seeks to reverse the trend by stressing that local entrepreneurs and communities must be vitally involved

Consequently, ecotourism, which is a niche segment of the tourism industry should be owned and managed by Sri Lankans, which will prevent leakages out of the country and provide the right Sri Lankan flavour and stimulate the appreciation of nature and culture among the community. Further, Sri Lankans know their country best and ecotourism should be their business; as the resource base is their heritage.

Ecotourism could be developed extensively in Sri Lanka. Such development can make a sustained contribution to the Sri Lankan economy, to the generation of country-wide employment and to the improvement of the quality of life of the people.

Related Article
Development of Ecotourism in the aftermath of tsunami in Sri Lanka

Seventeen Ideas for Environmentally Friendly Living

Environmentally friendly living not only helps the planet (giving a lighter ecological footprint) but also provide you healthy, simple and more economical lifestyle. Just a few small changes in your day to day life will be helpful in addressing some of the global issues such as global warming and also local issues such as solid waste disposal, energy crisis, land degradation and water scarcity.

Compiled by Department of Forestry and Environment Science,
University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka
Released on World Environment Day 2007 (5 June 2007)
These ideas were launched on 5 June 2007 to School children and general public at Univesity of Sri Jayewardenepura. 


Idea you can implement NOW:

  • 1. Environmentally responsible living at Home
    Anyone can start environmentally friendly living by doing simple things at home such as switching off unnecessary lights and appliances, repair broken taps, saving water by turning off the tap while brushing your teeth etc.

Ideas for Reducing Garbage

    • 2. Think before you buy (Do not purchase unnecessary things)
      Reducing the amount we consume is the first step in reducing waste.
    • 3. Use of Reusable goods such as reusable bags –
      Find constructive uses for “waste” materials. You can make a fashion statement and design your own shopping bag. A small investment saving rupees and environment in the long term.
    • 4. Use a compost bin to recycle kitchen waste –
      Recycling will reduce the amount of garbage you dispose as a municipal waste.

About 85% of what we throw out from households are easily biodegradable waste which will provide us a fertilizer for our gardens at no cost passively. A compost bin takes up maximum 1 sq m from your garden space. These are available in plastic, concrete or metal in many sizes and to suit your budget.

  • By following “reduce, reuse, recycle” in that order of importance will reduce the waste you generate.
  • 5. Green living in the digital age –
    Use both sides of papers in printing/ photocopying, In printing documents, print only the portion that is essential after editing. Replace e-mail for normal mail wherever possible. Going digital saves time, paper, storing space and so much more easy to access past records and it is trendy !!.
  • 6. Buy local products (Consume Sri Lankan products) –
    This will reduce the foreign exchange, promote local industries and also this will reduce the emissions involve in transport.
  • 7. Bring lunch in lunch boxes –
    A very small investment for a lunch box is economical, healthier in the long run and reducing the use of non degradable lunch sheets.
  • 8. Give only Eco-friendly gifts –
    Make sure the gift you give will get used. Avoid unnecessary packaging and give green gifts: consumable gifts such as fruits, local gifts, CFL bulbs and rechargeable batteries.


Ideas for Energy Saving

  • 9. Use CFL bulbs –
    Compact fluorescent, spiral light bulbs are 75% more efficient than standard light bulbs
  • 10. Use Solar Power –
    Now easy to use solar panels are available for lighting, and also solar chargers are available for for electronic appliances.
  • 11. Energy saving on the road –
    Walking, cycling, using a car pool, fuel efficient cars, keeping the car well maintained, driving at a lower speed or taking public transport, all produce fewer emissions.
  • 12. Green buildings –
    Improve natural daylight, ventilation in workspace, home environment. Offices that are designed for air-conditioning create a sick environment since often these are not maintained. It is very much more economical, healthy and sensible to consider designs to optimize the use of natural lighting and ventilation.
  • 13. Switch off electrical appliances rather than keep them on the standby mode-
    Computers, monitors, printers, photocopy machines, televisions, VCRs, DVD players, and microwave ovens should be properly switched off to save energy.

Ideas for Reducing Land degradation

  • 14. Conserve soil –
    Do not expose soil in land development.
  • 15. Plant a tree –
    Trees absorb CO2 which will reduce global warming and it provides other benefits such as shelter, conservation of soil, retaining water, supply food, wood and fuelwood.

Ideas for Saving Water

  • 16. Harvest rain water –
    Put a barrel on your downspouts and use this water for watering plants, washing etc.
  • 17. Save water in the garden –
    Retain rain water in the garden by facilitating infiltration and reducing the surface flow. If you have to water the garden, do it during the coolest part of the day or at night to minimize evaporation.


Education – Scholarly articles on Forestry and Environment

Seventeen Ideas for Environmentally Friendly Living
Environmentally friendly living not only helps the planet (giving a lighter ecological footprint) but also provide you healthy, simple and more economical lifestyle.
These ideas were compiled by Department of Forestry and Environment Science and these will be launched on World Environment Day 2007 (June 5)

Sri Lanka Tourism An Opportunity to Change of Direction from Sun, Sea and Sand in the Aftermath of the Tsunami – by Chandra de Silva

Forest Management in Sri Lanka – Web site maintained by Dr Upul Subasinghe, Senior Lecturer in Department of Forestry and Environment Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Sri Lanka.

Research papers of Forestry and Environment Symposia 1995-2001
Abstracts of the research papers of the symposia covering various subjects in the fields of forestry, environment, biodiversity, natrue and natural resources

Code of Ethics for Research on Biological Diversity involving Access to Genetic Resources of Sri Lanka (2004) Document published by Biodiversity Secretariat, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka – read before conducting research invovling biodiverstiy of Sri Lanka

Preparation of a Country Environmental Profile for Sri Lanka for European Union (EU) Sri Lanka economic cooperation (2006) S.W. Newman and D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe – Full Paper

Environmental Impacts of Tsunami and it’s Rehabilitation– Abstract of the paper deliverd by Prof. D.M.S.H.K. Ranasinghe, Department of Forestry & Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura

Understanding Earthquakes and Tsunamis – by Prof Dhammika A. Tantrigoda, Department of Physics, University of Sri Jayewardenepura, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka Recent trends in forest management – Abstract of the theme talk delivered by Mr H M Bandarathilake, former Conservator of Forest and Director, Forest Resources Management Project

Pollution Control and Waste Management
– Abstract of the talk delivered by W L Sumathipala Open University of Sri Lanka and Director, National Ozone unit of Sri Lanka

Sustainable Agricultural Practices – Abstract of the talk delivered by P M Dharmasena, Field Crops Research and Development Institute, Mahailluppallama

Environmental Message by Arhat Mahinda – Message on nature conservation

Environmental Issues relating to proposed coal power plant at Kalpitiya

Air pollution caused by Vehicles

Key Environmental Issues in Sri Lanka

Challenges and opportunities in Forestry for the new millennium

Dynamics and Trends in U.S. Furniture Markets
– Presentation made by Prof. Richard Vlosky, Ph.D.
Director, Louisiana Forest Products Development Center, Louisiana State University Agricultural Center Louisiana, USA on 7 June 2005 at Ministry of Enterprise development and Investment promotion, to members of Wood Based Industrialists in Sri Lanka- Seminar organized by University of Sri Jayewardenpeura, Export Development Board, Ministry of Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion and Wood Based Industrialists Association



Sri Lanka is one of the smallest, but biologically diverse countries in Asia. Consequently it is recognized as a Biodiversity hotspot of global and national importance. Its varied climate and topographical conditions have given rise to this rich species diversity, believed to be the highest in Asia in terms of unit land area.

Much of the species are endemic, a reflection of the island’s separation from the Indian subcontinent since the late Mesozoic. This is especially relevant for mammals, amphibians, reptiles and flowering plants. These species are distributed in a wide range of ecosystems which can be broadly categorized into forest, grassland, aquatic, coastal, marine and cultivated. The diversity of ecosystems in the country has resulted in a host of habitats, which contain high genetic diversity.

Biodiversity includes species diversity, genetic diversity and ecosystem diversity.

Species diversity – fauna and flora

An interesting feature of the species diversity in Sri Lanka is its high degree of endemism, which is observed in several taxonomic groups. Even more interesting is distribution of endemics. A large proportion is found in the wet zone in the south western region of the island.

Flora – Twenty three percent of the flowering plants are endemic and most of them are confined to the wet evergreen and wet montane forests of the central and southwest part of the country.
Vegetational analysis has resulted in the identification of fifteen different floristic regions with the great majority being found in the wet and intermediate zones. The presence of many floristic regions within a relatively small area is a reflection of the high level of ecosystem diversity in the country.

– The fauna of Sri Lanka is as diverse as the flora. While sharing common features with the neighboring subcontinent, the fauna exhibits very high endemism among the less mobile groups. With taxonomical revisions and descriptions of new species the number of species in each group keeps changing.

For endemic species, the distribution patterns are similar to the flora: the wet zone has many more endemic species than the dry zone. In terms of mammals, birds and fishes, the three major groups that are well studies in Sri Lanka, each group has a different distribution pattern.

Genetic diversity

Genetic diversity is the component of biodiverstiy that this least documented. Almost all of the available information is confined to economically important agricultural crops. The Plant Genetic Resource Centre (PGRC) at Gannuoruwa, Peradeniya has collected and preserved propagative material of a large number of species from various agro-climatic zones of the country. For example PGRC has germoplasm materials of 3194 traditional varieties and cultivars, and 17 wild relatives of Rice (Oryza sativa).

For fauna, there have been some studies on elephants (Elephas maximus) and leopards (Panthera pardus), which indicate a decrease in genetic diversity as a consequence of natural isolation from Indian sub-continent.

Ecosystem diversity

There is a wide range of ecosystem diversity in the island. The major natural ecosystems in the country are forests, grasslands, inland wetlands, and coastal and marine ecosystems. It also includes agricultural ecosystems.

Forests varying from wet evergreen forests (both lowland and montane), dry mixed evergreen forests to dry thorn forests. Grasslands are found in montane and low country Inland wetlands include a complex network of rivers and freshwater bodies. Marine ecosystems include sea-grass beds, coral reefs, estuaries and lagoons and mangrove swamps.

Sri Lanka: One of 25 World’s Biodiversity Hot Spots

Sri Lanka has been identified by the environment activist group Conservation International (CI) as one of 25 biodiversity hot spots in the world.
These hot spots could have maximum benefit by preservation efforts, the magazine said in a cover story titled “Heroes for the Planet: Earth Angles”. The U.S.-based CI said that together with Western India, Sri Lanka, the island in the Indian ocean, accounts for 2,180 plant species that are unique to each hot spot. Sri Lanka’s tropical rain forest ecosystem is considered as an area which is disturbed by human activity, but still exceptionally rich in animal and plant species found nowhere else.
Environment Division, Ministry of Transport, Environment and Women’s Affairs (1994) Strategy for the preparation of a biodiversity action plan for Sri Lanka. Prepared by IUCN and Ministry of TEWA. Forest Sector Master Plan (1995) Forestry Planning Unit, Minsitry of Agriculture, Lands and Forestry.