Southeast Asia: Sri Lanka

About Sri Lanka

Occupied by the Portuguese in the 16th century and the Dutch in the 17th century, the island was ceded to the British in 1802. As Ceylon it became independent in 1948; its name was changed in 1972. Tensions between the Sinhalese majority and Tamil separatists erupted in violence in the mid-1980s. Tens of thousands have died in an ethnic war that continues to fester.

Vital Statistics
Capitol City: Colombo; note - Sri Jayewarden
Population: 19,408,635 (July 2001 est.)
Percent below poverty: 22% (1997 est.)
Language: Sinhala (official and national language) 74%, Tamil (national language) 18%, other 8%
Date of independence: 4 February 1948 (from UK)
Form of government: republic
Title of Leader: President
Natural Resources: limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, clay, hydropower
Environmental Issues: deforestation; soil erosion; wildlife populations threatened by poaching and urbanization; coastal degradation from mining activities and increased pollution; freshwater resources being polluted by industrial wastes and sewage runoff; waste disposal; air
Agricultural Products: rice, sugarcane, grains, pulses, oilseed, spices, tea, rubber, coconuts; milk, eggs, hides, beef
Imports: machinery and equipment, textiles, petroleum, foodstuffs
Exports: textiles and apparel, tea, diamonds, coconut products, petroleum products
Trading Partners: IMPORTS: Japan 10%, India 9%, Hong Kong 8%, Singapore 8%, South Korea 6% (1999)
EXPORTS: US 39%, UK 13%, Middle East 8%, Germany 5%, Japan 4% (1999)


Sri Lanka Headlines

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