Our Work

This compilation is a humble effort to record selected impressions that IUCN has made toward the sustainable development in the Sri Lankan landscape and seascape while building the capacity of many and adding a wealth of nature-related information to the national domain

We have categorized our work under eight themes: Biodiversity, Business finance and economics, climate change, freshwater and water security, Governance – law and rights, Nature-based Solutions, ocean and coasts, protected areas and land use.



Past Projects

Long Term Conservation of Red Fin Labeo (Labeo lankae), Globally Critically Endangered Fish Species

Red Fin Labeo (Labeo lankae), endemic to Sri Lanka is currently classified as a Critically Endangered (CR) species due to its limited distribution. According to previous studies, it had been widely distributed within the dry zone of Sri Lanka. However, recent studies provided evidence of their existence, now restricted to mid and lower Malwathu Oya Basin in the North Central dry zone. There is however an information gap on their populations, habitat, distribution, threats and also the impact caused by climate change on their existence. This study focuses on executing a full investigation of the species and their habitats, along the Malwatu Oya Basin.

Labeo Lankae (left) and habitat (right) Labeo Lankae (left) and habitat (right) Photo: Sampath Goonatilake / IUCN

Ecological Survey and Priority Species Translocation in the Ecologically Sensitive Areas of North Western Province Canal Project (NWPCP)

The North Western Province Canal Project (NWPCP) implemented by the Government of Sri Lanka with funding from the Asian Development Bank involves a trans-basin diversion of water from the Mahaweli River to Hakwatuna Oya and Upper Mi Oya basins. The project will have significant short and long-term environmental impacts. The Wildlife Management Plan including Human-Elephant Conflict Management and Mitigation for the North Western Province Canal Project (NWPCP) has also recommended the rescue and translocation of selected prioritized species from the forest clearance site due to the project activities.  Carrying out this task - rescue and translocation - was thus assigned to the IUCN Sri Lanka country office.

nwpc-photos-ed Dewahoowa Reservoir (left) & Sri Lanka tree nymph, Idea iasonia, an endemic butterfly species (right) Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

Designing Communication and Outreach Resources for the "Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustenance of Ecosystems Services in Environmentally Sensitive Areas" project including Reviewing the Existing Communication Strategy

"Enhancing Biodiversity Conservation and Sustenance of Ecosystems Services in Environmentally Sensitive Areas" is a Global Environment Facility (GEF) fifth programme cycle project implemented by the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment (MMD&E) and the UNDP. IUCN is closely working with the ESA Project implementing team to develop communication and outreach resources for the project area in order to facilitate project activity implementation, as well as to obtain stakeholder support to popularize the ESA concept. 

esa-photos Wewalkele ESA (left) Gangewadiya ESA (right) Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

Labeo fisheri conservation and update of IUCN Red List endemic freshwater fish species

The 30-MW Moragolla Hydropower Plant proposed by Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) was approved by Central Environmental Authority after evaluating the proposal under EIA regulations with specific mitigation measures. As part of the ADB environmental safeguards, fish surveys were undertaken on behalf of CEB in 2016-2017 by National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) which identified Labeo fisheri being present in the dam site area. As the project may have a direct impact on the critical habitat of Labeo fisheri, ADB required a critical habitat assessment to be conducted. Therefore, the project reassessed the conservation status of the Labeo fisheri and evaluated the endemic fresh water fishes of Sri Lanka for IUCN Red Listing.


Conservation of sea turtles and coastal habitats around Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort (May 2017 to April 2020)

IUCN Sri Lanka has launched the Marine Turtle Conservation and Enhancement Project, funded by the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort in Sri Lanka, which is also an implementing partner. The project, conducted in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), the focus is on four key areas: raising awareness, preserving turtle nesting habitats, enhancing coastal habitat within the hotel grounds, and assisting with turtle conservation efforts led by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

The resort's location, surrounded by diverse marine and coastal habitats, offers a unique opportunity for successful conservation activities. The beachfront of the property, a small estuary within the hotel, and the hotel's location within a human-modified landscape, present opportunities for conservation and sustainability initiatives. Out of the seven species of marine turtles recorded around the world, five visit South Asian shores, including Sri Lanka, for the purpose of nesting, often on the beachfront of hotel properties. This presents a significant opportunity for turtle conservation and raising awareness.  The project aims to identify and protect nesting sites along the hotel's beachfront.

Additionally, a complete biodiversity survey will be conducted within the property to enhance ecosystem services provided by the estuary and rehabilitate the landscape by reintroducing native plant species, creating a natural coastal habitat that attracts native species. Nature trails within the premises will also be identified to promote awareness of Sri Lankan flora and fauna among visitors.

The project includes awareness sessions for hotel staff on the value of Sri Lankan biodiversity, turtle conservation, coastal biodiversity, and conservation engagements. It also aims to enhance the field-level capacity of the DWC and establish an interpretation center at Rakawa Turtle Sanctuary.

Furthermore, IUCN will conduct a survey of turtle nesting habitats and threats along the 132 km coastline from Tangalle (Anantara Hotel) to Yala National Park (Kumbukkan Oya estuary) in collaboration with DWC. The findings will be compared with the 2004 IUCN turtle habitat survey data to identify any changes or threats to habitats, and the findings will be shared with DWC.

Finally, the project will support the establishment of a “Dollars for Deeds” program for Anantara as a financing mechanism to fund conservation activities in Sri Lanka.


Integrated Strategic Environment Assessment for the Northern Province of Sri Lanka (ISEA-North): Lessons learned

In 2009, UNEP and UNDP supported Sri Lanka to carry out the ‘Integrated strategic environment assessment for the northern province (ISEA-North). The objective of ISEA-North was to ensure that the resettlement and new development activities in the Northern Region are sustainable and cause minimum damage to natural resources. After six years, UNEP and IUCN Sri Lanka are collaborating on an effort to document the ISEA-North process and experience in detail, so that the lessons learned can be used locally and globally.

isea-photos Team Leader (left) & examine the potential multi-stakeholder approaches Photo: IUCN

Preparation of Sri Lanka’s National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP) for 2016-2022

Sri Lanka ratified the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1994. Article 6 of the CBD requires contracting parties to develop a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), or an equivalent instrument. After conducting a series of stakeholder-driven, consultative and participatory workshops and information sharing sessions, IUCN proposed a draft NBSAP which was revised and finalised upon receiving stakeholder inputs. National-level stakeholders from the In-situ and Ex-situ biodiversity conservation sector, food and nutrition sector, climate change and development sector and coastal and marine sector were engaged along with the Biodiversity Expert Committee, appointed by the Biodiversity Secretariat.

nbsap-photos Stakeholder consultation meeting at IUCN (left) & NBSAP stakeholder workshop at SLFI (right) Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

Watershed conservation and restoration in the Knuckles Conservation Forest and Environmental Protection Area: mini-watershed of Puwakpitiya Oya

The Knuckles Conservation Forest in Sri Lanka was declared a Conservation Forest in 2000. It is also one of three sections of the Central Highlands World Heritage Site. The project aims to conserve biodiversity, maintain watershed services and increase resilience to climate change for the benefit of local communities, agriculture and the local economy of both the Puwakpitiya mini-watershed and of the wider watershed area.

hsbc-knuckles-photos A training programme (left) & Puwakpitiya Oya mini watershed (right) Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

Conservation of Two Globally and Nationally Endangered (EN) Dragonfly Species [Rivulet Tiger (Gomphidia pearsoni), and Wijaya's Scissortail (Microgomphus wijaya)] by Enhancing the Watershed of Hunuwela Estate, Kahawatta Plantation PLC, Dilmah Group

IUCN developed a management plan for the natural areas that lie within the Hunuwela Estate, aiming to improve the overall ecological integrity and watershed ecosystem services of the property. Through the project activities, it is possible to work towards conserving these Endangered (EN) dragonfly species and their habitat. The project also recommended further conservation action required to preserve the threatened biodiversity and watershed functions of the estate. This conservation initiative provides an ideal opportunity for the development of a model conservation programme that can be emulated and replicated by other like-minded plantations and estates.

Assessing the status of the biodiversity of the rainwater harvesting systems of Heladhanavi Power Plant and its surroundings

In late 2014, IUCN Sri Lanka office was engaged by Lanka Transformers Limited (LTL) to assess the status of the biodiversity surrounding the rainwater harvesting systems of the abandoned Heladhanavi Power Plant (HPP) premises in the Puttalam district.

heladhanavi-photos Recording fishes at Heladanavi & storm and purified water collection pond at Heladanavi Photo: Tiran Abayawardane (left) and IUCN / Naalin Perera (right)

Bandula Barb conservation project

The Bandula barb (Pethia bandula) is a Critically Endangered and point endemic species. This means that it can only be found in a 1.5 km long stream that flows through Galapitamada, Sri Lanka. Unlike other Rare and Critically Endangered species, Bandula Barb lives outside the protected area network of Sri Lanka.  In 2013, IUCN initiated a project to implement the Bandula Barb Conservation Action Plan. IUCN worked closely with the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Forest Department and Divisional Secretariat of Warakapola and the local community to implement project activities.

Implementation of the biodiversity action plan of the Moragahakanda agricultural development project and the Kalu Ganga Reservoir and agricultural extension project

Sri Lanka’s Moragahakanda agriculture project was designed to harvest water from Amban Ganga and Kalu Ganga, two tributaries of Mahaweli Ganga, with the construction of two reservoirs. It resulted in the establishment of two new settlements – the right bank and left bank settlements as well as the development of a road network and other necessary facilities. Upon the request of the Mahaweli Authority of Sri Lanka (MASL), IUCN designed and implemented a biodiversity action plan to assess and address the impacts of the project on biodiversity.

moragahakanda-photos Rock out crop forest ecosystem (left) & An endangered snail species, Mirus panos at Kahalla Pallekele Sanctuary (right) Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN


 Business, finance and economics

Past Projects

Innovative financing mechanisms for promoting sustainable land management (SLM) in selected agro-ecosystems in the Central Highlands

Land degradation in Sri Lanka has become a serious problem that needs immediate attention. With this project, IUCN is supporting the development and implementation of innovative funding systems to promote SLM. One of the underlying reasons for insufficient investments in SLM is that the government and the farming community haven’t accounted adequately for the real cost of land degradation and benefits of SLM to individuals as well as the economy.

slm-photos Delthota - Kalugala village (left) & Dambugas Agala - information survey Photo: Sampath Goonatilake / IUCN

Support to Low Carbon Development in the Apparel Sector in Sri Lanka through Sustainable Financing

The project aims to introduce low carbon development in the apparel sector in Sri Lanka through the development of a strategy for sustainable financing. The Sustainable Finance Strategy for the Apparel Sector in Sri Lanka will guide and help the industry to be greener and will be shared with a wider audience by HSBC. 

sustainble-finance-photos Panel discussion (left) & A session with Banks' representatives Photo: HSBC/ IUCN


 Climate change

Ongoing Projects

Environmental conflict mapping through GIS and historical event data collection and analysis

The Northern and Eastern Provinces of Sri Lanka present a highly complex ethnic and religious composition and have been the heart of the protracted civil war. In a post-conflict context, the region has witnessed polarization of communities over access to, ownership of natural resources, such as land and water. The drivers of resources-based conflicts can be attributed to institutional, economic, social and climate constraints. However, local grievances caused by constraints have the propensity to take an ethicized direction in a politically and socially fragile post-conflict environment.

‘Early Identification of the drivers of environmental-resource-based communal conflicts for preventive action’ is a 12-month project that seeks to prevent conflict, by strengthening early warning and early response to environmental-resource-based conflicts that have the potential to deepen ethnopolitical fault lines and undermine social cohesion in the country. The project aims to identify the drivers of environmental resource-based conflicts through historical mapping of the issue focusing on the dry zone and use GIS to conduct geospatial mapping that will support the analysis of the above-mentioned issues and their trends and patterns.

undp-gis-project Priority area selection Photo: Darshani Wiijesinghe/ IUCN

Past Projects

Child-centred Climate Risk Assessment in Sri Lanka (CCCRA)

As an initial step, UNICEF has partnered with the Climate Change Secretariat (CCS) to carry out a “Child Centred Climate Risk Assessment (CCCRA) in Sri Lanka” which will add value to internal decision-making in UNICEF to strengthen its risk and climate-sensitive programming, especially in the context of the new UNICEF's five-year country program (2018-2022) . IUCN led the CCCRA process in collaboration with all the stakeholders.

Ecological restoration of Kapiriggama cascade system of tanks in Rambewa Divisional Secretariat in Anuradhapura

The project was expected to serve as a demonstration site for a range of best practices that can influence policy formulation on investments and modalities of such restorations. It was also expected to be a model that highlights the use of ancient knowledge in current climate adaptation contexts. 

kapiriggama-photos Prosperity (left) & Paddy track (right) Photo: Kumudu Herath / IUCN


 Freshwater & Water Security

Past Projects

Management and conservation of the Kelani River Basin

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. 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.

kelani-photos White water rafting at Kithulgala (left) & Water sampling (right) Photo: Dinithi Samaratunga/ IUCN (L) & Madhushan Indika


 Nature-based Solutions


Ongoing Projects

Managing together: Integrating community-centered, ecosystem-based approaches into forestry, agriculture and tourism sectors

The Project, “Managing Together: Integrating Community-centered, Ecosystem-based Approaches into Forestry, Agriculture and Tourism Sectors”, in short identified as “Managing Together” uses a community-centered and ecosystem-based approach to mainstream biodiversity conservation and benefit sharing through the development sectors of forestry, agriculture and tourism. The Project, which will be mainly based in the Malwathu Oya Basin, is led by the Biodiversity Secretariat of the Ministry of Environment with funding from the Global Environment Facility’s 6th programme cycle through UNDP, and IUCN as the responsible partner.

inception-workshop-and-malwatu-oya- Inception workshop (left) & Malwathu Oya (right) Photo: Sampath Goonatilake / IUCN

Local implementing partner for “Agroforestry on tea and coconut plantations in Sri Lanka”

Tea and coconut play a critical role in the Sri Lankan social, economic, and political domains. As the fourth largest tea producer in the world, Sri Lanka annually produces over 300,000 metric tonnes of tea, which is around 17% of the total need of tea users. Sri Lanka is placed fourth in the extent of coconut cultivating lands from the global agricultural land area. Many direct and indirect employment opportunities are generated in coconut and coconut-based industries.

coconut-and-tea-plantations Tea plantation (left) & Coconut plantation (right) Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

IUCN Sri Lanka and INSEE (Lanka) Ltd Partnership for Environmental initiatives

IUCN Sri Lanka and Holcim (Lanka) Ltd have worked together between2007 to 2015 on environmental activities that focused on minimising the impacts of the Aruwakalu Quarry Site in Puttalam. IUCN suported the cement quarry operations by rescuing and re-locating selected plants and less mobile fauna from areas ear-marked for mining to safe areas, and also provided guidance to restore mined sites. The ownership of Holcim operations in Sri Lanka changed to Siam City Cement Public Company Limited ‘INSEE Cement’ in 2016. Considering the success of its previous partnership,, INSEE and IUCN will continue to collaborate as partners. 

plot-4-and-shermon-traps-setup Plot 4 (left) & Shermon traps setup (right) Photo: Sampath Goonatilake / IUCN

Restoration and management of degraded land adjacent to Kanneliya Forest Reserve

IUCN Sri Lanka, in partnership with Biodiversity Sri Lanka, the Forest Department, and Private Sector partners, are piloting a project to reforest 10ha in the Kanneliya Conservation Forest by applying an ecological restoration modelling approach. This scientific approach to ecosystem valuation and to measuring benefits to biodiversity is expected to create a transformational change in the way we estimate ecosystem services and in decisions on conservation-related investments.

kanneliya_photos Plant nursery (left) & Restoration site (right) Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

Bonn Challenge Barometer of Progress Project – Sri Lanka Component

The Bonn Challenge Barometer of Progress Project – Sri Lanka, implemented by IUCN Sri Lanka Country Office, therefore aims to develop a database, using the Barometer of Progress framework, and record information on landscape restoration within the country. The database will incorporate restoration efforts from various stakeholders (government, private, non-government organisations, and community based organisations) to allow the Government of Sri Lanka to evaluate its progress towards the pledge of 200,000 ha as well as help find solutions to identified challenges in landscape restoration.

barometer-photos Workshops Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN


 Oceans and coasts

Ongoing Projects

Mannar Region Systematic Solution (MARESSOL) to limit marine litter from ocean-based industries in the Mannar region -based in policy and producer responsibility development

Marine litter is one of the most visible types of plastics impacting the marine ecosystem. Poor plastic waste management results mainly due to the lack of awareness, lack of adequate policies and poor enforcement. Taking all these issues into consideration, MARESSOL project is a regional initiative to understand and address the problems of marine litter with a special focus on ALDFG (Abandoned, Lost and Discarded Fishing Gear).

-fishing-net-entangled-in-a-coral-reef-ar-and-micro-and-macro-plastic-sampling A fishing net entangled in a coral reef (left) & Micro and macro plastic sampling in Mannar Photo: IUCN/ Arjan Rajasuriya (L) and IUCN/ Dinithi Samaratunga (R)

Past Projects

Plastic Hotspot Identification and Solution (CounterMEASURE II)

CounterMEASURE II will be implemented, initially in the Kelani River and Maha Oya Basins as a multi-stakeholder partnership. This project will benefit and collaborate with the ongoing work on plastic waste management, recycling and governance related policies and practices. To facilitate the implementation, the project will partner with Pirika Japan in micro plastic analysis in water; Asian Institute of Technology on mobile phone and vehicle mounted plastic waste remote sensing and identification; and Citizen Science applications based on mobile phones and direct interactions.

soil-and-water testing Water and soil sampling Photo: Dinithi Samaratunga/ IUCN


 Protected areas and land use

Past Projects

Supporting waste management in Horton Plains National Park (HPNP) and Peak Wilderness Nature Reserve (PWNR)

Waste management is an essential service to ensure the continuity of the conservation value of the Horton Plains National Park (HPNP) and Peak Wilderness Nature Reserve (PWNR). These two locations are managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) of the Government of Sri Lanka and known to have high visitor numbers. A short-term project was developed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and IUCN to develop an approach to ensure the long-term sustainability of the HPNP and PWNR conservational value by improving waste management and visitor information services.

hpnp-and-pwnr HPNP (left) & PWNR (right) Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

Enhancing education and awareness on the Central Highlands, a UNESCO World Heritage Serial Property in Sri Lanka

The Central Highlands is a serial property comprising of three component parts: Peak Wilderness Nature Reserve, Horton Plains National Park and Knuckles Conservation Forest. 

The Peak Wilderness Nature Reserve extends across three districts; Nuwara Eliya in the Central Province, and Rathnapura and Kegalle in the Sabaragamuwa Province.

hsbc-central-highlands-pwak-wilderness-photos Distance view of Peak Wildernes (left) & Montane evergreen forests at Peak Wildernes Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

Horton Plains National Park is located in the Nuwara Eliya district in the Central Province.

hsbc-central-highlands-hp-photos Horton Plains National Park (left) & Sri Lanka white-eye Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

The Knuckles Conservation Forest is located in the Matale and Kandy districts in the Central Province.

hsbc-central-highlands-knuckles-photos Bambarakiri Ella (left) & A suspended bridge near Rattota Photo: Naalin Perera / IUCN

IUCN, in close consultation and partnership with MoE, FD and DWC will prepare resource, awareness and interpretation materials targeting local visitors, international visitors and other stakeholders. These professionally developed resource materials will link the key three segments into one platform for the sustainable management of the sites.