The Asian Wetland Directory of 1989 identified 41 wetland sites of international importance in Sri Lanka, covering 274,000 ha in total. Of these, some 30% were under some form of protection, whereas 28% were completely protected according to the sources quoted. Subsequently, the Wetland Atlas of Sri Lanka prepared by the Central Environmental Authority in 1999 presented an overview of the above 41 wetland sites in the country. During the last 15 years, the Sri Lankan authorities have increasingly recognized the importance of wetlands and their management.
A major action pertaining to the conservation of wetlands in Sri Lanka was the establishment of a National Policy on Wetlands in 2004. The National Wetlands Steering Committee was also revived in 2003. These important initiatives were followed up with a draft wetland conservation strategy and action plan, which is currently being finalized. The Central Environmental Authority (CEA) is in the process of establishing a Wetland Management Unit (WMU), to facilitate the management of wetlands in Sri Lanka. Considering the dearth of information related to wetlands, the need to prepare an updated directory of wetlands in Sri Lanka was initially recognized at the national symposium on conservation of wetlands in Sri Lanka in 2003. The national policy and draft strategy on conservation of wetlands in Sri Lanka, prepared by the Ministry of Environment in 2004 further stressed the need to prepare an updated directory of wetlands in the country, to facilitate the conservation of wetland ecosystems.
Considering the above developments and needs related to conservation of wetlands in the country, the National Wetlands Steering Committee (NWSC) requested the services of the World Conservation Union(IUCN) and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) to facilitate the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) in preparing an updated information base on wetlands in Sri Lanka. It was planned to have the updated information base on wetlands in two components: a digital database and a directory of selected representative wetlands in the island. Based on the request made by the NWSC, a joint proposal was prepared by IUCN and IWMI, which was subsequently approved by the NWSC. The wetland directory was jointly funded by the CEA and IUCN (through financial assistance from the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Sri Lanka), while the digital database was funded by IWMI. The project commenced in the first quarter of 2005 and will be completed by the end of 2006.
Scope of the wetland information base;
The wetland information base is intended to provide baseline information to facilitate the conservation and management of wetlands in Sri Lanka by relevant authorities. It would also enable to integrate wetland related environmental concerns into present and future development projects that may affect specific wetlands. The digital database will be an evolving one where it would be updated with new information on a regular basis by the WMU of the CEA, with technical inputs from wetland researchers, IWMI and IUCN.