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Geography of Sri Lanka


Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon) is an island in the Indian Ocean situated south and slightly east of the southernmost point of India, separated from that country by the 23 km-(14 mi-) wide Palk Strait. Including 870 km² (336 mi²) of inland water, Sri Lanka has a total area of 65,610 km² (25,332 mi²), extending 435 km (270 mi) north to south, and 225 km (140 mi) east to west. Sri Lanka's total coastline is 1,340 km (833 mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Sri Lanka is slightly larger than Lithuania or the state of West Virginia, USA. Sri Lanka's capital city, Colombo, is located on the southwest coast.

The south-central part of Sri Lanka is a rough plateau cut by a range of mountains whose highest peak is Pidurutalagala, 2,524 m (8,281 ft). Narrow coastal plains skirt the mountainous section on the east, south, and west, but in the north the extensive coastal plain fans out, reaching from the eastern to the western shores of the island. Five-sixths of the land is less than 300 m (1,000 ft) in elevation.

Numerous rivers and streams flow seaward in all directions from the central mountain area; the longest river, flowing northeastward, is the Mahaweli Ganga (332 km/206 mi).

The climate, although tropical and monsoonal, varies from warm in the coastal plains and lowlands to temperate in the hill and mountain regions. The lowlands in the northeast receive an average rainfall of about 130 cm (50 in), and the hill country in the southwest has an average of 254 to 508 cm (100 to 200 in), most of the rain coming during the monsoon season. Elsewhere, average rainfall varies from 63 cm (25 in) to 190 cm (75 in). Located only 879 km (546 mi) north of the equator, Sri Lanka has neither summer nor winter but only rainy and dry seasons. Average temperature is 27°C (80°F).


Location : Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India
Geographic coordinates : 7 00 N, 81 00 E
Map references

: Asia

: total: 65,610 sq km
land: 64,630 sq km
water: 980 sq km
Area - comparative : slightly larger than Lithuania or the state of West Virginia, USA
Land boundaries : 0 km

Coastline : 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
Climate : tropical monsoon; northeast monsoon (December to March); southwest monsoon (June to October)
Terrain : 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, hydro power
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 run-off; 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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