Country Background Introduction
Sri Lanka is a tropical island with a land area of About 6.5 million hectares. This country lies between 50 52’ North and 79o 41’ and 81o 54’ east. The country has a tropical climate with monsoon dominated rainfall. Total land area is about 65,610 sq km. The island consists of a mountainous area in the southcentral parts and a vast coastal plain, which surrounds it.
Despite the relativity small size of the country, there is considerable variation in climate. There are three major ecological zones depending on the rainfall in the country viz: wet Zone, Intermediate Zone, Dry Zone and Arid Zone. The altitude varies from sea level to more than 2000 m. Both rainfall and altitude differences bring about a variety of climates in the country as shown in the following table.
Climatic and altitudinal zones of the country
Climatic Zone Wet zone Intermediate zone Dry zone Arid zone
Rainfall (mm) >2500 >1750- 2500 1000-1750 < 1000
Altitudinal Zone Low country Mid country Up country Montane zone
Altitude (m) 0-300 m 300-900 m > 900 m > 1500 m
The Sri Lanka’s population was around 18.1 million by mid-1998. Population growth has declined from 1.5% in during eighties to 1.2% in 2001. The population is projected to reach 23.1 million by the year 2031. The population is unevenly distributed across the country and nearly 60% is concentrated in the wet zone. Sri Lanka is one of the most densely populated countries in Asia with a density of 300 persons per square kilometer in year 2000 (Anon, 2000).
Until the 1960s the Sri Lankan economy depended heavily on the export- oriented plantation crops of tea, rubber and coconut. With the adoption of open economic policies in 1970s and the liberalization programme started in late 1980s increased the market orientation of the economy emphasizing export led growth and the development of the private sector. Despite the several civil strife, these economic reforms have resulted in an annual growth rate around 5.0% since 1990s. By 1994 the major sector of the growing economy was the service sector contributing 50.4% to the Gross Domestic product (GDP) This was followed by the agricultural, fisheries and the foresty sector with 20.5% and the manufacturing sector with 19.7% in the same year (Anon, 2000)
Forest Land ownership and management authority
Currently about 55 percent of the total area under natural forest is reserved and administered by the Forest Department. The rest belongs to the Department of Wiled life conservation. The extents of Designated Areas under the two departments constitute respectively 17% and 13 % of the total land area. Designated areas under the Forest Department in 1995 comprised Forest Reserves, Proposed Forest Reserves and National Heritage and Wilderness Areas. The Sinharaja and Knuckles forests and a
further 31 wet zone forests have subsequently been classified as Conservation Forests, thereby introducing a new category of Protected Area under the Forest Department. In addition, 20 mangrove sites selected for conservation and all of 42,000 ha of forests at elevations above 1500 m were proposed to bring under this category. The Protected Area network under the Forest Department thus includes all Conservation Forests and National Heritage and Wilderness Areas. The Forest Department has also demarcated 29 Man and Biosphere (MAB) Reserves within its forests to ensure that representative forest ecosystems are conserved, in addition to four MAB reserves in the wild life areas under the Department of Wildlife Conservation. The categories of Protected Areas within the jurisdiction of the Department of Wildlife Conservation comprise Strict Natural Reserves, National Parks, Nature Reserves, Jungle corridors and Sanctuaries.
Role of forests and forestry
It is a small but biologically diverse country that is recognized as a...