in Sri Lanka were second only to those in Indonesia (see Indonesia).
Reports vary on the number of deaths since many people are still
missing and the country lacks adequate communications. As of March
1, 2005, estimates state that 36,603 people perished in the months
following the tsunami. Another 800,000 people living on the coasts
of Sri Lanka have been directly affected. The eastern shores of
Sri Lanka faced the hardest impact since they were facing the epicenter
of the earthquake. The southwestern shores were hit later, but the
death toll was just as severe. The southwestern shores are a hotspot
for tourists as well as the fishing economy. Tourism and fishing
industries created high population densities along the coast.
The coastal lifestyle
of people in Sri Lanka contributed to the high death tolls. The
following images illustrate the correlation between population,
affected areas, and mortality rates. In addition to the high number
of fatalities, approximately 90,000 buildings were destroyed. Houses
were easily destroyed since they were built mostly from wood. This
wooden debris that was left behind is now raising issues of its
own (see Clean-up).
Sri Lanka is an island
covered with an extensive array of plants and animals, many of which
are endemic to the island (see
Wildlife). Sri Lanka is also home to very delicate ecosystems
such as the rainforest, coral reefs, and mangrove wetlands (see
The tsunami's long-term effects on these ecosystems are not as evident
as the human impacts. Ecosystems, although fragile, can sustain
for lengthy periods of time after harm is done to them, making it
difficult to judge how well they will recover from immediate damage.
Wetlands and forests were initially destroyed, but how fast and
effectively they rebound is the main concern. It is important these
areas bounce back and regain the enormous biodiversity they once
retained. Conservation International included Sri Lanka in its list
of the top 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world.
MSNBC News; Environment
Why is it so important
for these areas to grow back quickly? In the months following the
tsunami, many areas of Sri Lanka were left denuded. For many people
of Sri Lanka, wildlife and the timber resources were crucial to
their livelihood.The destruction of these forests creates a local
climate that negatively affects inland ecosystems. These forests
also act as a barrier or cushion for waves, as some did in the tsunami
of 2004. Forested areas of the coast helped to ease the impact of
waves on inland areas. No one knows how many lives were spared by
the forested environment.
the Maldives, in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, the disaster’s consequences
for the environment are very severe,”
Environment Chief, Klaus Toepfer