Threatened Lakes of the Year 2018:

Lake Bolgoda and Lake Madampe - Sri Lanka


Background Information and Interviews


Press Release of the GNF about the Threatened Lakes 2018


Interview with Lal Emmanuel

Director of Nagenahiru Foundation - Center for Conservation of Lakes and Wetlands, Sri Lanka, Lake Madampe


Interview with Ekanayake Abeyrathne

Director of EMACE Foundation of Sri Lanka, Lake Bolgoda

The environmental foundation Global Nature Fund (GNF) proclaims the Sri Lankan Lakes Bolgoda and Madampe as the “Threatened Lakes of the Year 2018”. In commemoration of the World Wetlands Day, the GNF draws attention to the advancing destruction of these important ecosystems.


Deforestation of mangroves, habitat destruction for constructions and water pollution are endangering the livelihoods of the local population and many endangered species in the Bolgoda and Madampe Lake regions in the southwest of Sri Lanka. The unique mangrove forests in Sri Lanka with a spectacular biodiversity are threatened by increasing human activities and stress deriving from climate change.


Thousands of people are affected by the consequences of degradation and pollution of the two unique ecosystems at the Lakes Bolgoda and Madampe in Sri Lanka. The destruction of the mangrove forests, e.g. for the construction of hotel complexes and bungalows, puts the livelihoods of the people in the region at risk. Moreover, improperly treated effluents from agriculture and industries worsen the water quality dramatically. This is not only affecting the environment but also large numbers of fishermen and other local people, whose livelihoods and food resources depend on the lakes.


Mangroves – an exceptional ecosystem

Mangroves provide the basis for many coastal fisheries, work as natural shields against storms and Tsunamis and form major carbon sinks. Together with coral reefs and tropical forests, mangroves are among the most productive and at the same time most threatened ecosystems on earth. Prawns, crabs and fish use the open area between the roots for shelter, spawning, and as a food source. Therefore, mangroves play an important role as nursery habitats for many commercially important species, such as shrimp and multiple fish species. Mangroves vanish at an alarming rate: since 1980 worldwide more than 20 %, equalling 3.6 million hectares, of mangrove forests have been destroyed (UNEP, 2014).

 Lal Emmanuel
 Ekanayake Abeyrathne
 Before the cleaning campaign
 Cleaning at Lake Bolgoda
 Mangroves offer important habitats for many animal species.

Lake Bolgoda

With an area of 374 square kilometres Lake Bolgoda is one of the largest freshwater sources in the western district of Sri Lanka. The lake has a rich biodiversity and due to its natural beauty the tourism potential in the area bordering the capital of Colombo is very high. However, the lake is severely threatened by encroachments on the reserve zone of Bolgoda Lake, rubbish dumping by visitors and industrial pollutants discharged into the lake. Mangrove habitats were cleared and converted into rice paddy fields or used for the construction of hotels and bungalows. The destruction and felling of the mangrove forests drastically reduced the income generated by fishing.


Approximately 166,000 people live in the region directly around the wetlands. Lake Bolgoda is a very species-rich ecosystem with a wide variety of mangrove species and other terrestrial, semi-aquatic and aquatic species. The great challenge lies in the damage to these ecosystems caused by the adjacent settlements. The destruction of mangroves leads to degradation of flora and fauna and increases the negative impact of climate change on vulnerable communities. In the long term, people suffer from the decline in fish and crustacean populations, as mangroves are important spawning grounds. Other problems such as land erosion and rising sea levels lead to increasing poverty and social conflicts.

 Construction Activities at Lake Bolgoda
 One invasive plant species is Eichhornia crassipes - commonly known as Japan Jabara in Sri Lanka.
 Life is back to normal in conservation Areas.

Lake Madampe

The Madampe Lake wetland system is located on the south west coast of Sri Lanka, which harbours a unique biodiversity and includes a variety of vegetation types, predominantly mangroves and marshlands. Due to the diversity of habitats and a broad variety of plants, a large number of animal species including invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals can be found around the lake. The mixture of vegetation types and presence of small and large islands within the lake has made the wetlands an ideal habitat for numerous species of birds. A total of 83 bird species belonging to 36 families have been recorded. Mangroves are one of the most prevalent ecosystems in Sri Lanka and provide a range of ecosystem services to the local communities. They play a major role in preventing coastal erosion and support nesting and reproduction for fish and birds. Nevertheless, during the past few decades mangrove resources have been drastically damaged or reduced due to increasing human activities such as illegal tree felling, aquaculture, clearing for settlements, agriculture and tourism. The wetlands are suffering from over-fishing, emissions of pollutants into the water system and the extensive use of chemical fertilizers. The local communities in the region of southwestern Sri Lanka depend on the natural resources provided by the lake and the surrounding wetland systems. Therefore, an adequate management and an environmental awareness programme are necessary, by which the local farmers and fishermen learn about sustainable use of the environment.


Solutions – the look ahead

Global Nature Fund together with its Sri Lankan partner organisations EMACE Foundation of Sri Lanka at Lake Bolgoda and Nagenahiru Foundation at Lake Madampe support the restoration of those unique mangrove forests. Adequate management and environmental awareness programmes need to be developed, to train more farmers and fishermen in sustainable use of the environment. The installation of buffer zones, the provision of alternative livelihoods and alternative sources to firewood as well as the development of small scale, low cost water treatment plants for hotels, industries and communities would help to prevent further ecosystem destruction.


First steps have already been made in the framework of joint projects. Since the Tsunami in December 2004, approximately 100,000 mangrove saplings have been planted in the two lake regions and subsequently 40 hectares of this important habitat have been restored. Further information on our joint project activities can be found here:


Mangrove Protection in Sri Lanka and India

 Mangrove Nursery
 Mangrove Seedling in the Nursery
 Habitat destruction at Lake Madampe
 Project Area
 Tree Nursery


Since 2004, on the Worlds Wetlands Day (2nd February) the GNF nominates the “Threatened Lake of the Year” to call attention to an endangered lake area and help solving environmental problems on site.


Global Nature Fund and the Living Lakes Network

Global Nature Fund (GNF) is a non-profit, private, independent foundation for the protection of environment and nature. GNF was founded in 1998 and has offices in Radolfzell, Bonn and Berlin, Germany. One of GNF’s core initiatives is the Living Lakes Network – a global network of organisations that champion the protection of lakes and wetlands. The network currently comprises 108 members all over the world. Lake Bolgoda and Lake Madampe are members of the international Living Lakes Network (


EMACE Foundation of Sri Lanka  

EMACE is an experienced NGO that works in the Bolgoda Lake region in the areas of biodiversity restoration and biodiversity protection. EMACE implements renewable energy schemes, bio-cultivation, climate change mitigation programmes and runs environmental education programmes for the community.


Nagenahiru Foundation - Center for Conservation of Lakes and Wetlands, Sri Lanka

The Nagenahiru Foundation was established in 1991 and is involved in a variety of activities including community level environmental education, nature conservation, advocacy programmes as well as poverty mitigation and community empowerment programmes. The foundation is conducting various mangrove restoration and conservation programmes.

 Home Garden and Farmer Training
 Home Gardening
 Biodiversity Conservation



EMACE Foundation of Sri Lanka

Ekanayake Abeyrathne (Director)

15 Mihiri Place, Asiri Uyana, Katubedda, Moratuwa, Sri Lanka 

Phone:  + 94 11 26 12 837

Mobile:  + 94 11 77 79 131 393

Fax: + 94 11 26 10 080




Nagenahiru Foundation – Center for Conservation of Lakes and Wetlands

Lal Emmanuel (President)

No. 4/11, Patabendimulla

Ambalangoda, Sri Lanka

Phone: + 94 91 22 56 621

Mobile: + 94 77 62 09 625




Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Udo Gattenlöhner (Executive Director)

Fritz-Reichle-Ring 4

78315 Radolfzell, Germany

Phone: +49 7732 9995-80

Fax: +49 7732 9995-88