Management and conservation of the Kelani River Basin

White water rafting - Kelani river.

Project title: Medium to long-term multi-sector and multi-stakeholder strategy and action plan for the management and conservation of the Kelani River Basin

Location: Western, Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces in Sri Lanka (7 Districts)

Duration: 2015

Project background: The Kelani River Basin is home to over 25% of the Sri Lankan population. The river is the primary source of drinking water to over 4 million people living in Greater Colombo and over 10,000 industries and businesses depend on the natural resources and services provided by the basin. Deteriorating water quality and quantity issues along with envisaged climate impacts have required urgent policy and ground level action.

The National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) makes every effort to provide safe drinking water by treating the water supplied from the Kelani River Basin. However, the treatment process depends largely on the quality of water supplied by the river. If the water quality supplied can be improved by protecting catchment areas and minimising human and natural actions that cause pollution to the water, then it will be easier to treat the water. 

Due to the complexity and cross-cutting nature of the issues related to Kelani River catchment management, a multi-sector, multi-agency and multi-stakeholder approach is being proposed to ensure the long-term sustainability and resilience of the Kelani River Basin and its ecosystem services. 

The concept of a Kelani River Multi-Stakeholder Partnership (KRMP) was developed as a pilot initiative under the National Pavithra Ganga (Clean River) Programme. KRMP will include a common strategy and a long-term action plan with specific roles and responsibilities for different agencies. Key government stakeholder agencies will be involved in design and implementation, and many other non-governmental stakeholder groups such as industries, communities, school children and others will be included in the KRMP process. High emphasis is placed on private sector, youth and community engagement, effective communications and gender sensitive approaches. 

The Kelani River Basin planning process has been financially supported by UNDP, UNICEF and partly by IUCN. The main technical inputs for the concept and approach will be provided by IUCN in consultation with Central Environment Authority (CEA), NWSDB and Ministries in charge of Environment, Water Supply and Lands.

IUCN is responsible for conceptualising and drafting the strategy and action plan based on research literature, stakeholder inputs and global experience. In doing so IUCN interacts primarily with CEA and National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) and over 40 government ministries and agencies. In addition, IUCN is responsible for reporting the progress periodically to CEA and UNICEF and ensuring that the strategy is in line with other national priorities such as the Western Province Megapolis Development.

Objectives of the project: Ensuring the socio-economic and environmental sustainability of the Kelani River Basin through a multi-stakeholder strategy and action plan by:

  • Developing a medium to long-term strategy and action plan for the management and conservation of Kelani River Basin based on the identification of specific roles and responsibilities for different agencies
  • Outlining an implementation mechanism that involves multiple stakeholder groups including governmental, non-governmental, private sector, community and other interest groups
  • Articulating and developing a comprehensive knowledge management and monitoring system to support the implementation of the multi-sector and multi-agency approach


  • Medium to long-term multi-sector, multi-stakeholder strategy and action plan for the management and conservation of the Kelani River Basin
  • Monitoring and evaluation mechanism for the above plan
  • Communications strategy and a school centred awareness and education programme
  • Map compendium
  • Perception survey
  • Natural resource profile

Donors: UNICEF; and IUCN

Partners: Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment; Ministry of City Planning and Water Supply; Ministry of Land, Ministry of Health; Ministry of Plantation; Ministry of Education; Central Environmental Authority (CEA); National Water Supply and Drainage Board; Department of Land Use Planning; Irrigation Department; Forest Department; National Physical Planning Department; Natural Resources Management Centre; Water Resources Board; Department of Agriculture; Department of Agrarian Development; Department of Coast Conservation; Geological Survey and Mines Bureau; National Aquatic Resource Research and Development Agency; Urban Development Authority; Land Reform Commission; District Secretaries; Divisional Secretaries; local authorities, Board of Investors, University of Kelaniya; Open University of Sri Lanka; Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Board; Rubber Research Institute of Sri Lanka; Tea Research Institute; Sri Lanka Police; National Gem and Jewellery Authority; National Building Research Organisation; Sri Lanka Land Reclamation Development Cooperation; National Cleaner Production Centre; Public Interest Law Fund; United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF); United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA); International Water Management Institute (IWMI); private sector industries in the Kelani River Basin; local NGOs; over 1,000 schools in the Kelani River Basin; environment pioneer brigades; media; and community-based organisations at the grass root level. 

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