Sri Lanka

Map Sri Lanka
Maps copyright Hammond World Atlas Corp.

Flag of Sri Lanka


Background: 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 resettled tens of thousands of internally displaced persons and has undertaken a number of massive infrastructure projects to reconstruct its economy.
Location: Southern Asia, island in the Indian Ocean, south of India
Area land: 64,630 sq km
Area water: 980 sq km
Coastline: 1,340 km
Country name conventional long form: Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka
Country name conventional short form: Sri Lanka
Country name former: Serendib, Ceylon
Population: 21,283,913
Age structure: 0-14 years: 24.9% (male 2,705,953/female 2,599,717); 15-64 years: 67.2% (male 6,993,668/female 7,313,440); 65 years and over: 7.9% (male 720,219/female 950,916) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 0.934% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 17.42 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 5.92 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: -2.16 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.04 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.04 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 0.96 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/female; total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 9.7 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 10.68 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 8.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 75.73 years; male: 72.21 years; female: 79.38 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 2.2 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: less than 0.1% (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: 2,800 (2009 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: fewer than 200 (2009 est.);
Nationality: noun: Sri Lankan(s); adjective: Sri Lankan;
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 provisional data);
Religions: Buddhist 69.1%, Muslim 7.6%, Hindu 7.1%, Christian 6.2%, unspecified 10% (2001 census provisional data);
Languages: Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%;

note: English is commonly used in government and is spoken competently by about 10% of the population

Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 90.7%; male: 92.3%; female: 89.1% (2001 census);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $104.7 billion (2010 est.); $97.91 billion (2009 est.); $94.6 billion (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate): $48.24 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 6.9% (2010 est.); 3.5% (2009 est.); 6% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $4,900 (2010 est.); $4,600 (2009 est.); $4,500 (2008 est.);
note: data are in 2010 US dollars

GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 12.6%; industry: 29.8%; services: 57.6% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: 23% (2008 est.);
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 1.1%; highest 10%: 39.7% (2004);
Labor force: 8.1 million (2010 est.);
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 32.7%; industry: 26.3%; services: 41% (December 2008 est.);
Unemployment rate: 5.4% (2010 est.); 5.9% (2009 est.);
Budget: revenues: $7.415 billion; expenditures: $11.18 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: processing of rubber, tea, coconuts, tobacco and other agricultural commodities; telecommunications, insurance, banking; tourism, shipping; clothing, textiles; cement, petroleum refining, information technology services, construction;
Industrial production growth rate: 6.9% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 9.901 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 8.417 billion kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);

Statistics: CIA World Factbook.


Colombo Page

(Independent), Colombo

Daily Mirror

(Independent), Colombo

Daily News

(Government-owned), Colombo


(Independent, Sinhalase-language), Colombo

Island, The

(Independent), Colombo


(Sinhala-language), Colombo

Sri Lanka in the News

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Displaying 5 to 8 of 18 items.

A Former Child Soldier Speaks Out

World Press Review correspondent Anuradha Herath interviews a former child soldier from the Tamil rebel group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Gangodawila Soma Thera: The “People’s Monk”

Tekla Szymanski profiles Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Soma Thera.

The Chinese Curse on Sri Lanka

A power struggle between Sri Lanka’s president and prime minister has undermined a fragile peace process between the government and Tamil rebels, just when a breakthrough in the 20-year conflict seemed imminent.

Soul Searching in Sri Lanka: Dialogue or War?

Sri Lanka’s president unleashed a storm of protest when she dissolved Parliament, fired three Cabinet ministers, deployed troops around the capital, and declared a state of emergency. Here a popular satirical columnist from Colombo's independent Daily Mirror responds to news of the crisis.