North America
North America
South America
South America


Administrative divisions (GPS Maps)


People and Society






The first Sinhalese arrived in Sri Lanka late in the 6th century B.C., probably from northern India. Buddhism was introduced in about the mid-third century B.C., and a great civilization developed at the cities of Anuradhapura (kingdom from circa 200 B.C. to circa A.D. 1000) and Polonnaruwa (from about 1070 to 1200). In the 14th century, a south Indian dynasty established a Tamil kingdom in northern Sri Lanka. The coastal areas of the island were controlled by the Portuguese in the 16th century and by the Dutch in the 17th century. The island was ceded to the British in 1796, became a crown colony in 1802, and was formally united under British rule by 1815. As Ceylon, it became independent in 1948; its name was changed to Sri Lanka in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted into war in 1983. After two decades of fighting, the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) formalized a cease-fire in February 2002 with Norway brokering peace negotiations. Violence between the LTTE and government forces intensified in 2006, but the government regained control of the Eastern Province in 2007. By May 2009, the government announced that its military had defeated the remnants of the LTTE. Since the end of the conflict, the government has enacted an ambitious program of economic development projects, many of which are financed by loans from the Government of China. In addition to efforts to reconstruct its economy, the government has resettled more than 95% of those civilians who were displaced during the final phase of the conflict and released the vast majority of former LTTE combatants captured by Government Security Forces. At the same time, there has been little progress on more contentious and politically difficult issues such as reaching a political settlement with Tamil elected representatives and holding accountable those alleged to have been involved in human rights violations at the end of the war.


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

Geographic coordinates
7 00 N, 81 00 E

Map references

Area World Ranking: 122
Total 65,610 sq km
Land 64,630 sq km
Water 980 sq km

Area - comparative
Slightly larger than West Virginia

Land boundaries
0 km

1,340 km

Maritime claims
Territorial sea 12 nm
Contiguous zone 24 nm
Exclusive economic zone 200 nm
Continental shelf
200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Tropical monsoon; northeast monsoon (December to March); southwest monsoon (June to October)

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

Natural resources
Limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower

Land use
Arable land 13.96%
Permanent crops 15.24%
Other 70.8% (2005)

Irrigated land
5,700 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources
50 cu km (1999)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural)
Total 12.61 cu km/yr (2%/2%/95%)
Per capita 608 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural hazards
Occasional cyclones and tornadoes

Environment - current issues
Deforestation; soil erosion; wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanization; coastal degradation from mining activities and increased pollution; freshwater resources being polluted by industrial wastes and sewage runoff; waste disposal; air pollution in Colombo

Environment - international agreements
Party to
Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands
Signed, but not ratified Marine Life Conservation

Geography - note
Strategic location near major Indian Ocean sea lanes


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  Sri Lanka (Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte):

  GPS points from Sri Lanka (Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte)

Yakawewa North Central Province

Midigastuduwa Southern Province

Kanakarayankulam North Eastern

Ampalavan Kulam North Eastern Province

Mandandawella Southern

Imbulana Ela North Western

Mery Mount North Western

Matiyamadu North Eastern
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