Wetlands and Marshlands in Sri Lanka

By on May 9, 2017

wilpattu national park wetland

In Sri Lanka, Wetlands have been a lifeline of ancient civilization. Wetlands possess not only ecological significance but economic value as well. Among the natural wetlands in Sri Lanka, the Bundala, Anaiwilundawa and Maduganga wetlands have been recognised as having international significance. Similarly man-made wetlands, which are popularly known as “tanks”, play a vital role in the economic development of the country.

However, at present a majority of the wetlands in Sri Lanka are adversely affected by human activities such as unauthorised filling, waste disposal, pollution due to effluent discharges, clearing of natural vegetation in and around wetlands, spread of invasive alien species etc.


The Wetland Atlas of Sri Lanka prepared by the Central Environmental Authority in 1999 presented an overview of the above 41 wetland sites in the country.

Types of wetlands in Sri Lanka

  • Inland natural fresh water wetlands – includes the 103 rivers, the numerous lakes or wewas, marshes, streams, marshes, swamp forests and villus
  • Marine and salt water wetlands (e.g. lagoons, estuaries, mangroves, sea grass beds, and coral reefs)
  • Man-made wetlands – It is said that Sri Lanka probably has the highest number of man-made water bodies in the world with an estimated total of more than 10,000 wewas (tanks) countrywide. Linked to these tanks are many kilometers of canal systems, thousands of hectares of paddy fields.

Wetlands protected by Department of Wildlife Conservation

  1. Highland streams – Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, Horton Plains National Park
  2. Freshwater / salt Villu – Wilpattu National Park; Floodplain National Park, Yala NP
  3. Freshwater Marsh – Bellanwila-Attidiya Sanctuary, Muthurajawela Marsh, Sri J’Pura-Kotte Marsh Sanctuary.
  4. Ancient Irrigation Tanks – Anaiwilundawa Sanctuary, Minneriya National Park; Kaudulla National Park; Giants Tank Sanctuary , Tabbowa Sanctuary
  5. Reservoirs – VRR Sanctuary; Maduruoya National Park
  6. Lagoons – Bundala National Park, Yala National Park
  7. Mangrove – Wilpattu National Park; Kalametiya Sanctuary
  8. Coral Reefs – Pigeon Islands Sanctuary; Hikkaduwa National Park; Rumassala Sanctuary, Bar reef sanctuary

Download National Wetland Directory Book

You can download this book from Central Environment Authority website:
http://www.cea.lk/web/images/pdf/7-1.Book-National-Wetland-Directory-Low%20res(1).pdf


This book contains overview of following Wetlands of Sri Lanka and their Conservation Significance. (Name of the wetland and the page number are given below.)

  • Anaiwilundawa tank sanctuary 21
  • Arugam lagoon 26
  • Bar reef 31
  • Batticaloa estuary 36
  • Bellanwila-Attidiya marshes 41
  • Bentota estuary 46
  • Bolgoda wetlands 51
  • Bundala National Park 56
  • Colombo flood detention areas 61
  • Giant’s tank 66
  • Gregory’s lake 70
  • Gulf of Mannar reefs 75
  • Hikkaduwa National Park 80
  • Horton Plains National Park 85
  • Inginimitiya reservoir 90
  • Jaffna lagoon 95
  • Kahandamodara mangroves 99
  • Kalaoya estuary 104
  • Kalawewa tank 109
  • Kantale tank 114
  • Kaudulla tank 118
  • Koggala lagoon 123
  • Kotmale reservoir 129
  • Lahugala and Kitulana tanks 134
  • Lunama-Kalametiya lagoons 138
  • Lunugamvehera reservoir 144
  • Maduganga estuary 149
  • Reservoirs of Maduru Oya National Park 155
  • Maha and Karagan Lewaya 160
  • Mahaweli flood plains 165
  • Minneriya reservoir 170
  • Mundel lake 175
  • Muthurajawela marshes 180
  • Nachchaduwa tank 186
  • Negombo estuary 190
  • Nuwarawewa tank 196
  • Padaviya tank 201
  • Palatupana lagoon 205
  • Palk bay and Vidattaitivu lagoon 210
  • Parakrama samudraya 215
  • Pasikudah-Kalkudah reef 220
  • Periyakarachchi and Sinnakarachchi lagoons 225
  • Pigeon Island National Park 229
  • Polhena reef 234
  • Pottuvil lagoon 238
  • Puttalam estuary 243
  • Rekawa lagoon 249
  • Ruhuna National Park 255
  • Rumassala Marine Sanctuary 261
  • Senanayake samudraya 266
  • Tabbowa tank 271
  • Thalangama tank 276
  • Udawalawe reservoir 281
  • Unawatuna reef 287
  • Vankalai triangle 292
  • Victoria Randenigala Rantambe reservoirs 297
  • Wahalkada tank 302
  • Walauwatta Wathurana swamp forest 306
  • Weerawila-Tissa-Debara-Yoda tanks 311
  • Weligama reef 317
  • Wilpattu National Park 322
  • Yala East National Park 328


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