Sri Lanka - Country Profile

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Sri Lanka is an island of 65,000 square kilometers where the principal topographic feature is an anchor shaped mountain massif in the South-Central part of the island. The topography and differences in regional climate are underlying causes of the contrasts in many facets of the island.

Topography of Asia


55% of the population is concentrated in 20% of the land area, with 30% of the population estimated to be in urban areas. The least populated districts have 10% of the population spread out in 40% of the land.


The primary food crop is paddy. The paddy cultivation is undertaken as subsistence farming. Coconut and spices too are major food crops. Major “cash-crops” include tea and rubber.
Our work has shown a link between rainfall variations and agricultural production. The agrarian economy is susceptible to disruption through drought, floods and anomalous variability in climate.


The major industries are textile & apparel, food & beverage processing, chemical & rubber and mining & minerals. A quarter of the manufactured products are processing of agricultural products (tea, rubber and tobacco). Industry is heavily concentrated in the Western Province. Industrial production has shifted from heavy industries for domestic consumption to textile and other processing for export in the last two decades.


Infrastructure development too reflects a pattern of heavy development in the Western Province with subsidiary development in the metropolitan districts of Kandy and Galle.
Roads: Sri Lanka has an extensive road network with a better density and coverage compared to most third world countries.
Electricity Generation and Distribution: As of 1995, 53% of the households had access to electricity. 65% of the total generation comes from hydropower, putting it at risk during drought periods. Off-grid micro-hydro and solar has been increasingly used to provide power to 28,000 households.
Telephones: The density of telephones is low with 41 mainlines and 23 cellular phones per 1000 persons in 2000.
Irrigation: The island has a vast network of rivers, reservoirs and canals that is used to manage the impact of both spatial and seasonal climatic variability.

Key Statistics

Location South Asian island in Indian Ocean
Geographic Co-ordinates Between 6oN 79oE and 10oN 82oE
Area Total: 65610 km2
Water: 870 km2
Land: 64740 km2
Coastline 1340 km
Elevation extremes Lowest point: 0 m
Highest point: 2524 m
Population 19,742,439 (2003)
Languages Spoken Sinhala (74%), Tamil (18%), English (10%)
Export commodities Textiles and apparels, tea, diamonds, coconut, petroleum products
Literacy 92.3%
Life Expectancy 72 years
Population below poverty line 22% (1997)
Unemployment rate 8%
Human Development Index Rank 99 out of 175
Budget Revenues $2.8 bill. Expenditure $4.1 bill.
External Debt $9.8 billion (2002)
GDP (Purchasing Power Parity) USD 73.7 Billion
GDP per capita (PPP) USD 3700
GDP by sector Agriculture :20% Industry: 26% Services: 54%

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