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The island of Sri Lanka formally known as Ceylon (before 1972) lies in the Indian Ocean, to the southwest of the Bay of Bengal. It is separated from the Indian subcontinent by the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Strait which is 31 kilometers off the southern coast of India. According to Hindu mythology, a land bridge to the Indian mainland, known as Rama’s Bridge, was constructed during the time of Rama by the vanara architect Nala. Often referred to as Adam’s Bridge, it now amounts to only a chain of limestone shoals remaining above sea level. Sri Lanka is a small miracle partly due to the compact physical diversity of this pearl-shaped island – but, as you shall see, this diversity extends to virtually every aspect of life – from nature to culture to history.

Fringed by variously-shaped sublime beaches, from straight expanse to rocky cove, the island possesses a coastal plain containing a host of geographic features such as lagoons, wetlands, rivers and various types of wildlife-rich jungle. The plain ends in the central area where the land starts to ascend into mist-shrouded mountains, covered in forests of wind-stunted trees (in fact there are seven different types of forest in Sri Lanka), plains known as patanas, and rolling tea plantations. In addition, the hillsides are invariably punctuated by dramatic waterfalls. For its size Sri Lanka has perhaps the largest number of waterfalls of any country. The island consists mostly of flat-to-rolling coastal plains, with mountains rising only in the south-central part. Amongst these is the highest point Pidurutalagala, reaching 2,524 metres (8,281 ft) above sea level.

The climate of Sri Lanka can be described as tropical and warm. Its position between 5 and 10 north latitude endows the country with a warm climate moderated by ocean winds and considerable moisture. The mean temperature ranges from about 16 °C (60.8 °F) in the Central Highlands, where frost may occur for several days in the winter, to a maximum of approximately 33 °C (91.4 °F) in other low-altitude areas. The average yearly temperature ranges from 28 °C (82.4 °F) to nearly 31 °C (87.8 °F). Day and night temperatures may vary by 4 °C (7.20 °F) to 7 °C (12.60 °F). During the coldest days of January, many people wear coats and sweaters in the highlands and elsewhere. May, the hottest period, precedes the summer monsoon rains. The rainfall pattern is influenced by monsoon winds from the Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal: as the winds encounter the mountain slopes of the Central Highlands, they unload heavy rains on the slopes and the southwestern areas of the island. Some of the windward slopes receive up to 2,500 millimetres (98.4 in) of rain each month, but the leeward slopes in the east and northeast receive little rain. Periodic squalls occur and sometimes tropical cyclones bring overcast skies and rains to the southwest, northeast, and eastern parts of the island.

Between December and March, monsoon winds come from the northeast, bringing moisture from the Bay of Bengal. Humidity is typically higher in the southwest and mountainous areas and depends on the seasonal patterns of rainfall, and places like Colombo experience daytime humidity above 70% all year round, rising to almost 90% during the monsoon season in June. Anuradhapura experiences a daytime low of 60% during the monsoon month of March, but a high of 79% during the November and December rains. In the highlands, Kandy’s daytime humidity usually ranges between 70% and 79%.

 

SRI LANKA – FACTS & FIGURES

 

Official name: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Government type: Republic
Location: Latitude 5° 55. to 9° 50. north, longitude 79° 42. to 81° 52., 650km north of the equator
Dimensions: 430km north to south, 225km east to west
Coastline: 1,340km
Area: 65,525km
Currency (code): Sri Lankan rupee (LKR)
Independence: 4 February 1948
Administrative capital: Sri Jayewardenepura
Commercial capital: Colombo
Administrative divisions: 9 provinces; Central, North Central, North Eastern, North Western, Sabaragamuwa, Southern, Uva, Western, Eastern Province.
Climate: Typically tropical, with a northeast monsoon (December to March) bringing unsettled weather to the north and east, and a southwest monsoon (June to October) bringing bad weather to the south and west
Terrain: Mostly low, flat to rolling plain; mountains in south-central interior
Highest mountain: Pidurutalagala, 2,524m
Highest waterfall: Bambarakanda, 263m
National Flower The Blue Water Lily (Nymphaea stellata).
National parks and nature reserves area: 8,000sq.km
Population: 21,128,773 (? Census)
Population growth rate: 1.3%
Population Density: 309 people per sq km
Life Expectancy at Birth 74 female, 64 male
Literacy rate : Female 87.9 Male 92.5
Ethnic groups: Sinhalese 73.8%, Sri Lankan Moors 7.2%, Indian Tamil 4.6%, Sri Lankan Tamil 3.9%, other 0.5%, unspecified 10% (2001 census)
Languages: Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%
Note: English (a link language commonly) is used in government and spoken competently by about 10% of the population
Religion: Buddhist 69.1%, Muslim 7.6%, Hindu 7.1%, Christian 6.2%, unspecified 10% (2001 census)
Time zone: Sri Lanka Standard Time is five and a half hours ahead of GMT. (Allowance should be made for summer-time changes in Europe.)
International dialing: +94
Electricity: 230 . 240 volts, 50 cycles AC. If you travel with a laptop computer bring a stabilizer
Economy: Sri Lanka.s most dynamic sectors are food processing, textiles and apparel, food and beverages, port construction, telecommunications, and insurance and banking. In 2006, plantation crops made up only 15% of exports (90% in 1970), while textiles and garments accounted for more than 60%. About 800,000 Sri Lankans work abroad, 90% of them in the Middle East. They send home more than US$1 billion a year.
Labour force 34.3% of the labour population is employed in agriculture, 25.3% in industry and 40.4% in services: 40.4% (30 June 2006 est.) The unemployment rate is 5.7% (2007 est.)
Agriculture & products Rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, tea, rubber, coconutsm milk, eggs, hides, beef, fish
Industries: Processing of rubber, tea, coconuts, tobacco and other agricultural commodities; telecommunications, insurance, banking; clothing, textiles; cement, petroleum refining.
Exports: Textiles and apparel; tea and spices; diamonds, emeralds, rubies; coconut products, rubber manufactures, fish
Imports: Main import commodities are textile fabrics, mineral products, petroleum, foodstuffs, machinery and transportation equipment: $10.61 billion f.o.b. (2007 est.). Percentage of main commodities from main import partners: India 19.6%, China 10.5%, Singapore 8.8%, Iran 5.7%, Malaysia 5.1%, Hong Kong 4.2%, Japan 4.1% (2006)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): Purchasing power parity: $81.29 billion (2007 est.). Official exchange rate: $30.01 billion (2007 est.) Real growth rate: 6.3% (2007 est.) Per capita: $4,100 (2007 est.) composition by sector: Agriculture: 16.5% Industry: 26.9%
Gross National Product (GNP): Sri Lanka is placed in 76th place in GNP figures of the world.s nations with $22.8billion (2005)
Flag description: yellow with two panels; the smaller hoist-side panel has two equal vertical bands of green (hoist side) and orange; the other panel is a large dark red rectangle with a yellow lion holding a sword, and there is a yellow bo leaf in each corner; the yellow field appears as a border around the entire flag and extends between the two panels

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