Sri Lankan Environment of Geography
Sri Lanka LIES practically in the center of the Indian Ocean and thus has climatic and cultural links with three continents. Monsoon winds, driving against Sri Lanka’s peaks, support lush vegetation on the southern half of the island, but the northern half is a dry zone. The winds affect human culture as well, having brought wave after wave of immigrants and merchants following the southerly trade routes. Outsiders found a wide range of ecological niches on the coast, on the plains, or in the mountains, and they built a remarkably variegated civilization. Merchants long have sought Sri Lanka as the source of pearls, jewels, spices, and tea. Visitors for centuries have marveled at the beauty and great diversity of the island.
Sri Lanka lies on the Indian Plate, a major tectonic plate that was formerly part of the Indo-Australian Plate. It is in the Indian Ocean southwest of the Bay of Bengal, between latitudes 5° and 10°N, and longitudes 79° and 82°E. Sri Lanka is separated from the mainland portion of the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and Palk Strait. According to Hindu mythology, a land bridge existed between the Indian mainland and Sri Lanka. It now amounts to only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level. Legends claim that it was passable on foot up to 1480 AD until cyclones deepened the channel. Portions are still as shallow as 1 meter (3 ft), hindering navigation. The island consists mostly of flat to rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south-central part. The highest point is Pidurutalagala, reaching 2,524 meters (8,281 ft) above sea level. A view of Sripada from Maskeliya
Sri Lanka has 103 rivers. The longest of these is the Mahaweli River, extending 335 kilometers (208 mi). These waterways give rise to 51 natural waterfalls of 10 meters or more. The highest is Bambarakanda Falls, with a height of 263 meters (863 ft). Sri Lanka’s coastline is 1,585 km long. Sri Lanka claims an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending 200 nautical miles, which is approximately 6.7 times Sri Lanka’s land area. The coastline and adjacent waters support highly productive marine ecosystems such as fringing coral reefs and shallow beds of coastal and estuarine seagrasses.
Sri Lanka has 45 estuaries and 40 lagoons. Sri Lanka’s mangrove ecosystem spans over 7,000 hectares and played a vital role in buffering the force of the waves in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The island is rich in minerals such as ilmenite, feldspar, graphite, silica, kaolin, mica and thorium. The existence of petroleum and gas in the Gulf of Mannar has also been confirmed and the extraction of recoverable quantities is underway.