The Muthurajawela Marsh is part of an integrated coastal wetland system of high biodiversity and ecological significance, which covers an area of 3,068 ha. It is located between 10-30 km north of Colombo, in Gampaha District. Together with Negombo Lagoon (3,164 ha), Muthurajawela forms an integrated coastal wetland system of high biodiversity and ecological significance.
The ecosystem is listed as one of 12 priority wetlands in Sri Lanka, and in 1996 an area of some 1,777 ha in the northern section of Muthurajawela was declared a Wetland Sanctuary.
Yet, despite its protected status, Muthurajawela is subject to intense and growing pressures.
Areas within and surrounding the wetland have since 1991 been zoned for urban, residential, recreational and industrial development. Wetland species are harvested at high and often unsustainable levels, land is being rapidly reclaimed and modified for agricultural, commercial and residential purposes, and heavy loads of industrial and domestic wastes are discharged untreated into the marsh. About 28 fish species have been observed in Muthurajawela, of which about 24 are food fish (Mahanama 2000), and it is estimated that almost 100 households are involved in subsistence-level fishing. But the wetland area has been seriously degraded over time, and these threats continue to intensify.
Although the Muthurajawela - Negombo area has long been seen as having prime potential for industrial and urban development, there has to date been little appreciation either of the economic value attached to its conservation or of the high and far-reaching economic costs arising from its degradation and loss. Land and resource use decisions have been based on a development imperative that favors the modification of the wetland for short-term economic gain.
The economic value of wetland goods and services are rarely factored into these decisions, which tend to focus only on the direct financial benefit of wetland conversion and reclamation.
The area’s biodiversity and natural ecosystems continue to be reclaimed, degraded and lost because they are seen to have little or no value as compared to other “developments” which yield more immediate and obvious profits.
Twice daily the high tide brings seawater into the wetland, while fresh water from a watershed of 720 km² discharges at the junction of the lagoon and the marsh. Continuous mixing of these two waters has led to a brackish ecosystem, with high productivity and high biological diversity. Many species of fish, shrimps and crabs spend a part of their life in the shelter of mangroves and sea-grass beds; they support a multimillion fisheries industry in the lagoon and along the coast. Both the marsh and the lagoon house numerous plant and animal species, of which many are rare or endemic. The protected estuarine crocodile reproduces here, large numbers of migratory birds come here for resting and feeding, and the area is known for its beautiful butterflies, of which the caterpillars feed on the abundant (mostly medicinal) plants.
Sedimentation processes are slowly turning this wetland, born some 5,000 years ago, into land. Under natural circumstances, this would take centuries to accomplish: natural siltation is slow, and natural disasters like heavy storms would have a delaying effect. But, as often, man interferes. Upstream land clearing increases the amounts of silt brought to the lagoon, and expanding housing areas in the mouth of the lagoon decrease exchange of seawater. On top of this, the ecosystem is threatened by a flow of pollutants from upstream industrial, agricultural and domestic activities.
The wetland makes a natural habitat for hundreds of varieties of endangered species as well as endemic species. Due to the ecological and biological importance of this wetland sanctuary it was recently named a 'protected wetlands of the world'.
Seven major vegetation types, marsh, lentic flora, shrub land, reed swamp, grassland stream bank and Mangrove make up the flora diversity of Muthurajawela. The researchers have identified 190 species belonging to 65 families with one endemic species, three nationally threatened species and 11 alien invasive species. The Bio diversity report says 209 fauna varieties were identified in the sanctuary, with 17 endemic types and 26 nationally threatened varieties.
Flora & fauna of Muthurajawela
- Over 194 species
- 66 families
- One endemic species (Phoenix zelanica).
- The shrub land - 115 species
- Stream bank - 23 species
- 40 species of fish
- 14 species of reptiles
- 102 species of birds
- 22 species of mammals
- 17 are endemic
- 26 are nationally endangered.
- 48 species of butterflies
- 22 species of dragonflies.
Fish, Amphibians & Reptiles
- 40 species of fish
- 45% of Sri Lanka’s native inland fish species
- 5 endemics
- 5 nationally endangered
- 4 exotic species
The Thilapia (Sarotherodon mossambicus), Pearl Spot (Etroplus surantensis) and the Dwarf Panchax (Aplocheilus parvus) are among the very common species found at Muthurajawela.
- Level-finned Eel
- Red Snapper
- Big-eye Trevally
- Common Glass fish
- Silver Bleddy
The Amphibians consists of
- 14 species including
- 4 endemics
- 5 nationally endangered
Muthurajawela marsh represents 26% of the total amphibian species on the island. The Common Toad and the Six-toed Green Frog are the most common species found here.
The Reptiles consist of 31 species covering 20% of the island’s reptilian fauna.
- 6 endemic species
- 9 are nationally endangered.
The Commonest species of reptiles are the Water Monitor, Common Garden Lizard and two species of Geckos. The Start Tortoise is also found here which is not regular as it is known to be a dry zone species. A breeding population of the endangered Eurasian Crocodile being the largest reptile in Muthurajawela is also found in the northern area. Other reptiles found are the Indian Python, Spectacle Cobra and Russell’s viper.
- 22 species
- One endemic
- Representing 25% of the island’s mammal species.
- 4 species are nationally endangered.
The Murids, Rats & Mice, are the most common types and the globally threatened Grey Slender Loris is extremely rare in Muthurajawela. The Fishing Cat is also found here.
- 102 species(one endemic)
- Represent approximately 37% of Sri Lanka’s native avifauna species.
- 19 migrants
Herons, Egrets, Cormorants, Teal, Waders and Kingfishers, Little and Indian Cormorant, Cattle, Little, Intermediate & Large Egrets, Purple Heron, Indian Pond Heron, Little Green Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Black Bittern, Yellow Bittern, Chestnut Bittern, Black-headed Ibis, Asian Open-bill, Little Grebe, Lesser Whistling Teal, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, White-breasted Water hen, Purple Swamp hen, Water Cock, Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Pintail Snip, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Little Tern and Lesser Crested Tern. Resident waders include the Red-wattled Lapwing, Greater Painted Snip and the Eurasian Thick-nee. Among the Kingfishers, White-throated, Stork-billed, Common and Pied Kingfishers, Black-capped Kingfisher and Common Moorhen are found here.
Birds of prey
- Brahaminy Kite
- Western Marsh Harrier
- Palled Harrier
Many forest birds also can be seen in Muthurajawela. The migrants include Indian Pitta, Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Asian Paradise Flycatcher, Asian Brown Flycatcher, Greenish Warbler, Brown Shirke, Forest and Grey Wagtail. Resident forest birds include are Spotted Doves, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Blue-faced Malkoha, Pied Cuckoo, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Alexandrian Parakeet, Little Minivet, Plain Prinia, White-rumped and Scaly-bellied Munia, White-bellied Drongo, Red-vented Bulbul, Common Iora, Jungle and House Crows are very common and seem to be the dominate species.
Butterflies & Dragonflies
- 48 species ( represent 20% of the total butterfly species in Sri Lanka)
- 6 species are nationally endangered
- Blue Glassy Tiger
- Glassy Tiger
- Tailed Jay
The Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies) consist of 22 species representing approximately 19% of the total Odonata species found in Sri Lanka. Among them are 2 endemics and 2 nationally endangered species.
Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya (KDN) Biosphere Reserve, which covers lowland and mountain tropical forests, occupies the interlude between two rivers. It consists of a series of parallel strikes - ridges and valleys. The area is covered by a natural high forest ecosystem consisting of several forest types, mainly lowland tropical forest, wet semi-evergreen forest, submontane tropical wet semi-evergreen forest and montane tropical wet-evergreen forest. It is the only relatively large extension of tropical rainforest of this type in Sri Lanka with 'Dipterocarps' as the dominant forest composition. In the KDN complex, a total of 319 woody plant species representing 194 genera have been identified, of which 22% are endangered, 27% vulnerable and 45% rare. Some 220 faunal species including 41 endemic species have been recorded such as the white-throated flowerpecker (Dicaeum vincens), Ceylon myna (Gracula ptilogenys) and Sri Lanka hanging parrot (Loriculus beryllinus).
The Biosphere Reserve is a major catchment area for two of the most important rivers in the region, the Gin and Nilwala Rivers, which feeds numerous rivers and streams. They drain into the Indian Ocean near the world famous coral reefs of the Hikkaduwa Marine Sanctuary. These two rivers are vital for the regional agricultural and industrial development in the Galle and Matara Districts.
10,000 people live in 78 villages in the transition area of the Biosphere Reserve. In the core area, only scientific research and ecotourism activities are permitted. The main economic activities take place in the buffer and transition areas and include forestry, collection of non-timber products, paddy fields, tea, rubber and cinnamon plantations, animal husbandry and other forms of agriculture and cottage industries. There are three temple sites in the KDN complex, the Nugegoda, Rajagala and Dediyagala. These are hermitage type temples or shrines within the forest.
KDN complex is having two waterfalls namely "Anagi Mala Ella" and "Narangas Ella" which are made up by "Nannikitha Ala" starting from Kanneliya forest reserve. There is a safe place for a bath place in Nanlikitha ala close to entry to forest reserve. They provide a Nature trial to Kabbale Kanda Mountain which is one of the highest locations in KDN complex.
Major ecosystem type Tropical humid forests
Major habitats & land cover types Tropical lowland rain forests characterized by Cullenia rosayroana, Madhuca fulva, Desmos elegans etc.; Riparian strips with Mesua ferrea, Polyaethia korinthi, Hortonia floribunda etc.; Pine plantations with Pinus caribeae; Tea and rubber plantations with Camellia sinensis and Hevea brasiliensis.
Location 6°09' to 6°18'N; 81°19' to 81°27'E
Area (hectares) Total 20,139 Core area(s) 5,139 Buffer zone(s) 5,000 Transition area(s) when given 10,000
Altitude (metres above sea level) +60 to +450
Year designated 2004
How to get there: Form Colombo you have to first come to Galle, from Galle, take the Udugama Road (B129) to Udugama. Continue towards Hiniduma and the turn-off to Kanneliya is after the 3 km post on the B429.
There is another route from Hikkaduwa, Baddegama, Nagoda to Udugama. If you are coming from Colombo this is a much closer than going to Galle and return. Entrance to KDN complex is in Udugama - Hiniduma road. Either by getting to Udugama or Hiniduma you can easily come to KDN Complex.
|Plants with Heartwood
Endemic plant species
- Cullenia rosayroana Kataboda
- Canarium zeylanicum Kekuna
- Anisophyllea cinnamomoides Welipiyanna
- Calophyllum moonii Domba Keena
- Garcinia quaesita Rathgoraka
- Dillinia retusa Godapara
- Doona affinis Beraliya
- Doona congestifilora Thiniya
- Calamus ovoideus Thitbatu Wel
- C.zeylanicus Ma Wewel
- Mangifera zeylanica Etamba
- Semicarpus gardneri Badulla
- Memecylon rostratum Heen Kuratiya
- Syzygium alubo Aluboo
- Madhuca fulva Wanamee
- Nepenthes distillatoria Bandura
- Loriculus beryllinus Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot
- Megalaima flavifrons Yellow-fronted Barbet
- Dicaeum vincens White-throated Flowerpecker
- Sturnus senex White-headed Starling
- Galloperdix bicalcarata Sri Lanka Spurfowl
- Acavus phoenix
- Beddemca albiozonatus
- Corialla adamsi
- Ceclophorus ceylanicus
- Nannophrys gnentheri
- Rhacophorus cruciger
- Philautus masutus
- Lankascincus gansi
- Otocryptis weigmanni
- Ceratophora aspera
- Macaca sinica
- Paradaxurus zeylonensis
- Prebytis senex
Courtesy by M.P.A.U.S. Ferndando
Historical Mountain Rumassala stands majestically in the vicinity of Galle harbour along Galle- Matara road. The pagoda built recently by a Japanese Buddhist glistens in the morning sun.
This mountain range (25ha) had been used by the allied forces during the Second World War as a security zone. Wreckages of tents put up during that time exist still.
The ruins of a fake lighthouse built during the Dutch period also could be seen at a spot which is believed to be the highest point of the peak. The lighthouse had been utilized to give wrong signals to enemy sailing vessels. Enemy vessels got destroyed by striking against large rocks in the sea, by following the wrong signals given by this fake light house.
The mountain on which this lighthouse was built is now known as 'Kulunu Kanda'. The lighthouse is reffered to as 'Kuluna' (tower). The height of this tower is about 100 feet.
Bouenavista coral reef is another famous and valuable resource at this terrain and the sole soul of the nation’s coral heritage. It has as many as 530 species of fish in the reef; its diversity is so precious. The coral coverage then was about 70%. Fortunately, now the reef has managed to sustain a live coral coverage of 40%. And besides, the reef is showing a great recovery progress in terms of coral growth and increase in biodiversity.
The mountain violates the continuity of the southern coastal belt. Many devotees, Hindus and other tourists throng this mountain to discover its mysteries and fantasies derived from the epic of Ramayana by Valmiki.
When I went there I felt that it is an ideal location to spend my leisure time peacefully. There are so many stories woven around the Rumassala Mountain.
It’s said that the life reviving medicinal herb Sanjeevanie grows here but so far no one has found it. But in Ramayana it is mentioned that sanjeevanie could heal Lord Rama and his army.
M. D. Somadasa Kariyawasam, a researcher on the subject, recalls that Ramayana is about the war between Lord Rama of Bharatha Desha, that is India, and king Ravana of Lanka, over Seetha, the most beautiful woman at that time in the history of the world, the wife of Lord Rama, abducted by Ravana and kept hidden at Seetha Eliya in Nuwara Eliya.
Lord Hanuman led a Vanara Sena (a monkey army) to rescue Seetha, and the Vanara casualties were so great, and even when Lord Rama and Lakshmana were seriously injured, in the battlefield sanjeevanie was needed to revive them.
This hurb is said to have, the magical powers of reviving the dying and rejuvenating life. Hanumantha who leapt across to the Himalayas to pluck the herb sanjeevanie, in a hurry, pulled the whole section of Samantha Kuta where the herb grew, brought and dropped it near Galle.
But the folklore says it was only a part of Samantha Kuta that fell near Rumassala. But there is no evidence of the other part of the mountain that was supposed to have fallen. So it’s logical to think that the entire mountain is intact.
People in Rumassala say that when a pooja is in progress on top of Rumassala Mountain, there prevails an eerie atmosphere in the whole area. In addition to the medicinal herbs endemic to this mountain, it is said that even the gravity here is different from other parts of the country.
The Viharadhipathi of the Vivekarama temple on top of Rumassala, Ven Aththiligoda Saddathilaka thero told me that it is impossible to take any medicinal herbs and material away from the mountain.
Those who tried to do so are said to have got lost.In Rumassala, hardly do fathers and children meet each other. In the evenings their fathers go to the sea and return only the next morning and by that time the children have gone to school.
Fishermen believe that a mystic power works for them as they always yearn for the blessings of the Lord Rama and Hanuma. It helps them to get a good catch.