Key projects

Assessing the Living resources of the Gulf of Mannar (GoM)


 Nestled in the ocean between the south eastern coast of India and the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka and bounded in the north by the Adam’s Bridge, The Gulf of Mannar (GOM) is rich in biodiversity including mega fauna such as whales, dolphins, dugong and sea turtles.

Uncontrolled resource exploitation using destructive fishing methods, pollution resulting from industrialization of coastal areas and urban development and climate change related impacts are the common threats to this water body and the people dependent from ocean resources of GOM.

Fishing and related activities support the coastal communities in the Gulf, both in India and Sri Lanka. Despite having two of the largest marine Protected Areas in the Gulf, there is little information for adaptive management of this valuable globally important resource base while providing sustainable livelihood opportunities.

This project was started in September 2012 with aim to address information gaps that are required to strengthen strategies and institutional arrangements for managing issues of overexploitation of resources, biodiversity loss, habitat degradation and minimizing the vulnerability of coastal ecosystems and communities also considering climate change impacts.

A Management Plan for Maragala Mountain Range Environmental Protection Area(EPA)

Maragala Mountain

Maragala mountain, the highest summit in Monaragala is rich with biodiversity. “Maragalakanda” also known as the Peacock hill is an isolated mountain home several endemic fish, amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal species.

This mountain range is presently threatened due to anthropogenic pressures such as illegal logging and chena cultivation which stem largely from socio-economic issues. Assessment of environmental sensitive areas is a major role of Central Environmental Authority(CEA). Therefore with the collaboration of IUCN Sri Lanka CEA initiated to develop a management plan to assess and identify the significances of Maragala EPA.

 As a result, this eco-system identified as a site that can used to generate employment opportunities through nature based activities. Enhanced understanding of the potential options and eco- employment may reduce the pressure on this important biodiversity hotspot by illegal and poor land use practices.

Assessing of the biodiversity of the Hantana Mountain Range Environmental Protection Area (EPA)


 Situated approximately 4 km southwest of Kandy city, biodiversity rich Hanthana mountain EPA extends over the Gangavata, Pathahevaheta, Udapalata, and Deltota Divisional Sectaries Divisions. With efforts to highlight the ecological and socioeconomic importance of the Hantana Mountain EPA and thereby minimize threats and pressure, a biodiversity assessment was undertaken by Central Environmental Authority with the partnership of IUCN Sri Lanka.

Going back to the ancient prosperity: Ecological Restoration of Kapiriggama cascade tank system in Anuradhapura

Massalawa tank restoration

 Ancient prosperity of Sri Lanka discovers evidence on mechanism to capture Northeast monsoon rains to dry and intermediate areas, prevent floods and increases ground water recharge. The evidence base data illustrate small tank cascade system or “Ellangawa” as a traditional system of collecting and reusing of rain water for the use of community and the environment.

 Many such systems have been abandoned and not properly used at present. Ecological restoration of these systems can also help in climate induced floods and droughts. Kapiriggama cascade system of tanks in Rambewa Divisional Secretary Division in Anuradhapura is one of them.

 As this was in a neglected status a project to ecologically restore the system for realization of socio-economic, ecological and spiritual benefits was initiated from January 2013 to December 2015 by IUCN Sri Lanka with several partners.

Conserving the Agro-ecosystems for Livelihoods and Adaptation to Climate Change


Sri Lanka is vulnerable to changes in rain fall pattern, temperature and sea level rise as a result of climate change. As such, climate induced disasters such as floods, droughts, landslides, pest diseases, invasive species outbreaks, land degradation and soil erosion may cause severe impacts to agro-based livelihoods.

At the same time Sri Lanka is blessed with a strong traditional knowledge base that can be harnessed to improve adaptation measures to climate related changes and thereby meeting the challenges of climate change.


Support to implement EIA recommendations of the Moragahakanda Agricultural Development Project (MADP) and Kalu Ganga Reservoir and Agricultural Extension Project (KR&AEP)


Moragahakanda Agriculture project was designed to harvest water from Amban Ganga and Kalu Ganga, two tributaries of Mahaweli Ganga, by constructing two reservoirs. It resulted establishment of two new settlements — the right bank and left bank settlements as well as the development of a road network and other necessary infrastructure facilities.

The Environmental Impact Assesment (EIA) related to this work recommends a range of mitigation activities to conserve and manage natural resources impacted by the project activities. Those include loss of habitat for terrestrial wildlife including the disruption of the movement patterns of wide ranging species such as elephants and ungulates. As a result project activities are expected to increase human-wildlife conflicts resulting in death and injury to humans and wildlife as well as loss of crops and property. In addition significant potential loss of threatened and endemic species, unique habitats and disturbance to migratory paths are also expected.

With this background project discovered the importance of mitigating the impacts on biodiversity along with the establishment of two reservoirs. Therefore a biodiversity action plan was designed and implemented by IUCN on the request of Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka (MASL). 

Inventorising the biodiversity of the Rain Water Harvesting System at Heladhanavi Power Plant, Puttalam


  The biodiversity assessment of rain water harvesting system at Heladhanavi Power Plant

(HPP) initiated in June and Decemeber 2014 ( dry and wet periods). This implemented by Lanka Transformers with the partnership of IUCN Sri Lanka to enhance the value of land by inventorying flora, fauna and eco systems of premises.

This power plant is a 100 MW heavy furnace oil thermal power plant that generates 700GWh annually. It is located in the outer skirt of Puttalam, in north-western dry zone of Sri Lanka. The power plant after serving the nation’s electricity requirement for more than 10 years was decommissioned in December 2014.

The inventoried data is an asset to identify the value and use of premises. The recommendations were important for effective conservation and maintenance of biodiversity. 

Mangroves for the Future Small Grant Facility (Phase 2)


Mangrove for the Future (MFF) is a unique partner-led regional initiative to promote investment in coastal ecosystem conservation for sustainable development. Co-chaired by IUCN and UNDP, MFF provides a platform for collaboration among the many different agencies, sectors and countries which are addressing challenges to coastal ecosystem and livelihood issues. The goal is to promote an integrated ocean-wide approach to coastal management and to building the resilience of coastal communities.

After initially focusing on the countries worst-affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004 – India, Indonesia, Maldives, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and Thailand – MFF has now expanded to include Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan and Viet Nam. While mangroves are regarded as the flagship species, MFF addresses all coastal ecosystems.

Influencing community thinking and behavior: Conservation of Endangered Bandula barb (Pethia bandula)

Fact Sheet

 Pethia bandula (Bandula barb) is an endemic and nationally and globally Critically Endangered (CR) freshwater fish species. It is only found in the stream habitats of Hapugoda, Rubbidigala, Alpitiya and Minipura, Kegalle District in Sri Lanka. The population estimates of year 2007 indicate that this species consists of approximately 150 adults and fewer than 100 breeding pairs.

A recovery plan for Bandula Barb, highlighting the importance of establishing a population in a secure site outside its restricted range was developed in 2007.

The primary aim of the project was to aid the long-term conservation of this critically endangered point endemic freshwater species – Pethia Bandula.  Barb. 

Enhancing Natural Resources Governance in Small Islands

Keynote address by Hon. Minister P. Ayngaranesan, Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Services, Animal Husbandry, Irrigation and Environment

Mapping and Enhancing Natural Resources Governance in small Island Communities is a project implemented from June 2013 to February 2015 in four island countries and countries with small islands; Thailand, Seychelles, Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Implemented in two parts; the project initially reviewed and updated the legislative improvements introduced since the first study by IUCN in 2007-2008. The second part of the project was to build capacity towards better coastal resources governance. In Sri Lanka the project location selected was the Delft Island in the Northern Province.



Integrating business skills into ecotourism operations and Nature and Heritage Interpretation Training Workshop

Ecotourism workshop

To assist ecotourism operators in improving their business initiatives, a workshop on integrating business skills into ecotourism operations was held on 14th to 18th October 2013 in Negombo, Sri Lanka. 18 conservation, community organizations, small ecotourism businesses and university students attended this programme.

A field visit to the Kalpitiya peninsular and chilaw lagoon enabled the participants to gain experience from the ecotourism operations conducted by Semuthu Fisheries Cooperative Society, Coconut Villa homestay and the Sri Lanka Small Fishers’ Federation.
As a follow up on the above workshop, selected participants of the said workshop had the opportunity to undergo training on Nature and heritage interpretation. This workshop was held from 23rd to 26th June 2014 at Laya resort in Kukuluganga with a field visit to the Sinharaja World Heritage site. Nineteen participants representing small ecotourism operators and other small-scale conservation organizations attend the programme.


Enhancing the Ecological Integrity and Ecological Services of Halgolla Estate


Halgolla is a 1,196 hectare tea estate managed by the Kelani Valley Plantation PLC. It is located closer to Kithulgala area in the Sabaragamuwa province.

An initial surveys carried out by IUCN Sri Lanka in 2007 indicate that the natural and semi-natural areas of Halgolla estate function as an important repository of Sri Lanka’s biodiversity. Furthermore, the natural and semi-natural areas of the estate form the natural watershed of the Wee Oya, which is a major tributary of the Kelani River. Kelani is one of the major rivers in Sri Lanka of which the water has many consumptive and non-consumptive uses.


As a conservation action, the management of the estate has entered into a partnership with IUCN Sri Lanka to develop a management plan for the natural areas that lie within the estate premises and to improve the overall ecological integrity and watershed services of the property. As a result, IUCN Sri Lanka has designed and implement  this project to  Enhance  the Ecological Integrity and Ecological Services of Halgolla Estate. 

The key objectives of the project are;

  1. undertake studies on ecological integrity and watershed functions
  2. identification of measures for maintaining and improving the ecological integrity
  3. development of a watershed management programme, and,
  4. knowledge dissemination

Maintenance of natural habitats of Halgolla Estate within the overall framework of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM), enrichment planting, soil and  water conservation measures, hydrological assessments and, development of baseline surface water quality are the collective approach of the project. Awareness programmes for stakeholders on the ecological and hydrological value of the estate are  also planned for the dissemination of the project outcomes.


Apart from the direct outcomes, the possibilities are explored to use the study results to initiate a dialogue with the downstream water users to contribute towards sustaining the watershed protection programme using the principles of payment for ecosystem services.


Dugong bi-catch survey in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has pledged its support to the long-term survival of the dugongs (Dugong dugon), often known as the ‘sea cow’ or ‘Muhudu ura’ in Sinhala, and to the protection of their critical sea grass habitats by becoming a party to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Conservation and Management of Dugongs. This Dugong MOU operates under the United Nation’s Environment Program (UNEP) and Convention of Migratory Species (CMS). The Secretariat to the Dugong MOU is funded and hosted by the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi.

Dugongs are classified as ‘Vulnerable to Extinction’ under the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, which indicates that they face a high risk of extinction in the medium-term future. They are exposed to a number of threats across their range, including incidental capture in fishing nets, loss of habitat, boat collision and unsustainable hunting practices.  The IUCN rates their extinction risk as Vulnerable on a global scale. This risk is based on an inferred or suspected reduction of at least 30-50% over the last three generations (90 years; (Lawler et al. 2002). This classification describes a taxon that faces a moderate risk of extinction in the wild within 50 years (Marsh 2008). A recent report on status of dugongs throughout their range with the assistance of more than 100 experts indicated that dugong populations are declining or extinct in at least one third of its range, of unknown status in about half of its range and possibly stable in the remainder – mainly the remote coasts of the Northern Territory and Western Australia (UNEP 2002; Marsh 2008).


IUCN Sri Lanka, Turtle Conservation Project and Dilmah Conservation  carried out a by-catch survey designed and supported by UNEP-CMS  which will provide insights to further research and management actions on dugongs.


The survey was based in large part on the revised protocols developed by the Project Global Rapid By-catch Assessment ( but also drew on protocols developed at the Phuket Marine Biological Center (Thailand), at San Francisco State University (USA) and at James Cook University (Australia). The multi-disciplinary background of the panel ensured that the survey design would be widely applicable across regions and issues, scientifically thorough and sound, and culture-sensitive. The survey protocols were then reviewed by a number of social science and by catch assessment experts to determine language appropriateness and scientific rigor.


The results of the surveys can assist in determining the distribution and abundance of dugong populations, help identify and map areas of important dugong habitat such as sea grass beds, and assess the risk of, and develop measures to mitigate degradation of dugong populations and their habitat in Sri Lanka. The standardized survey protocol can also be of great benefit for comparisons within and across regions.


The Dugong Questionnaire Survey, by design, was intended as a relatively rapid process of accumulating data which addresses spatial distribution (where things are and where fishery pressure is located), and population status (how many are there, and how many were there in the past, and what sort of protection measures are in place).


Improving Natural Resource Governance for the rural poor in Sri Lanka

Improving Natural Resource Governance for Rural Poverty Reduction is a global project implemented by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with the support of Governance and Transparency Fund of UK Aid from the Department for International Development.  

The overall goal of this 5-year programme is contributing to improve natural resource governance for rural poverty reduction and its purpose is to improve livelihood security in selected countries through better environmental governance, including fair and equitable access to natural resources, new benefit sharing arrangements, and more participative and transparent decision making. It will do this by working with partners in Asia, Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and South America. The project is implemented in countries namely, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Benin, Lebanon, Syria, South Africa, Mozambique, Drylands of Africa (Kenya, Tunisia, Mali-Burkina Faso trans border area), Bolivia and Peru. The outcomes expected are improvements in institutions, in policies and in decision-making mechanisms as they relate to natural resources

Sri Lanka Component:

The project for Improving Natural Resource Governance for the rural poor in Sri Lanka is a component of the global project focuses on three main elements:

(a)     Improving governance for managing natural resources

(b)     Empowering civil society to reduce poverty and better manage natural resources

(c)     Capacity building for civil society to effectively manage natural resources

Implementation Sites

The project concentrates on four pilot sites addressing environmental governance issues in different contexts. Pilot sites are;

1.       Five villages situated in the close proximity to the Peak wilderness forest, situated in the Ratnapura

 Administrative District.

2.       The Nilgala Forest Reserve, a savanna type of a forest situated in the Monaragala Administrative District.

3.       The mangrove areas adjacent to the Puttalam Lagoon situated in the North western coastal belt in the administrative district of Puttalam.

4.       Periyakalapu lagoon in Tirukkovil in Ampara District. Main focus is on environmental justice and livelihood issues in coastal ecosystems

Implementation Modalities

Partnership with civil society organizations, community and the national, provincial and local government organizations and authorities involve in development and governance of natural resources in the project areas is a key to the implementation of this project.

The Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF) and Centre for Environmental justice (CEJ) are the key partners to provide technical support to implement the project.


IUCN Sri Lanka