Sri Lanka

Location map of the bmz project in Sri Lanka

Area description

The Puttalam lagoon is situated near the township of Puttalam, located in the North Western Province of Sri Lanka. There are eight islands in the lagoon, with Battalangunduwa as the largest.

 This lagoon - with a water surface area of about 32,750ha - is one of  the largest lagoons in Sri Lanka. It includes the Kala oya estuary (one of Sri Lanka’s largest mangrove habitats), the Mee oya estuary, the Dutch Bay and Portugal Bay. The Kalpitiya area still has large extents of mangrove vegetation while many surrounding islands also have mangroves.

The lagoon is located in the dry zone of the country, with a long dry period interspersed with a monsoonal spell. While dry monsoon forest and dry thorny scrublands make up the natural terrestrial ecosystems of this area, human terrestrial land use includes coconut/banana/cashew cultivations, home gardens, and some plantation forests. A vast extent of dry monsoon forest occurs in the Vanathavilluwa area. Dominant tree species include Manilkara hexandra, Drypetes sepiaria and Satinwood (Chloroxylon sweitenia). Rivers, streams, villus, mangroves, seagrass beds, coral reefs, salt marshes, lagoons and seashore vegetation make-up the natural wetland ecosystems in the area.

Mangroves, seagrass beds and other coastal ecosystems provide vital services for human well-being. They support livelihoods, protect inland communities from extreme weather conditions, regulate the local climate and are also of cultural and spiritual value to the inhabitants. As in many other mangrove habitats in the dry coastal zones in Sri Lanka, Rhizophora mucronata and Avicennia marina are the dominant species in the Puttalam lagoon and Dutch bay mangroves. Avicennia marina is found commonly in the Puttalam lagoon while Rhizophora mucronata dominates the waterfront areas of the riverine mangroves of the Kala Oya. A total of 14 true mangrove plant species and 29 species of mangrove-associated species have been reported from the Puttalam lagoon and the Dutch bay (ADB – RETA, 2003). Among them are Scyphiphora hydrophyllaceae, a very rare species and Sianometra iripa, which is critically endangered.

Although the Puttalam lagoon and its surrounds provide invaluable goods and services to the communities of the area, these ecosystems have been subject to degradation over the last few decades due to many anthropogenic activities. Establishment and maintenance of shrimp farms, expansion of salt pans, unsustainable fishing practices, expansion of settlements and other infrastructure, as well as excessive use of agrochemicals have contributed to the deteriorating conditions witnessed in the area.

A large number of people have been involved in lagoon and marine fishing activities, as this is the chief occupation of most of the residents in the area. Kalpitiya is the main fishery harbour, although there are many other landing sites in the lagoon. A wide variety of fishing methods are used including gillnets, trammel nets (the most common), push nets, traditional fishing traps (Ja-kotu), and pull nets.

Site description

Originally, out of fifteen sites around the Puttalam lagoon surveyed, three were selected for intervention.  However, as it became increasingly clear that a lagoon-wide approach was needed to conservation, eight more sites were selected all around the perimeter of the lagoon, so that project interventions would have have an effect on the entire lagoon.

Site map: BMZ project Sri Lanka

Socio economic profile

Village Population
Number of households
Average income Livelihood of the majority
Anakuttiya & Sewwanthiu

Half the households receive a monthly income less than Rs. 1,500.

Main livelihoods are fishing and agriculture with about 599 households directly involved in fishing.


About 300 families receive a monthly income below Rs. 2,000.

Main livelihoods are agriculture, fishing and daily wage labour. About 113 households depend on fishing. Poverty among the people is high, especially among fishing communities.


1,000 people are directly dependent on the fish resource.


Half of the households receive a monthly income less than Rs. 2,000.

375 households depend on fishing and the others mainly on agriculture. About 368 families have been displaced due to the internal conflict in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and have settled in this area.


About 237 families receive a monthly income of less than Rs. 1,500.

Around 30 families depend on fishing. Other livelihood options are employment in the private and state sectors, self-employment and as daily paid workers.


The income of about 186 households is less than Rs. 2,000 per month.

Almost all are directly or indirectly dependent upon fishing activities (lagoon and off shore).


The monthly income of about 185 families is below Rs. 2,000.

About 226 of these families depend on fishing, mainly lagoon fishing. The poverty among fishing communities is high (more than 80%).

Less than Rs. 2,000 per month.

Mainly dependent on agriculture and fishing, with about 65 households directly depend on fishing.

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IUCN MFF Initiative