Country: Sri Lanka
Coordinates: 7°03'N, 79°55'E;
Location: Between Hendala and Ja-Ela, 10 km northeast of Colombo, Gampaha District,
Area: 2,429 ha.
Altitude: Near sea level.
Biogeographically Province: 4.2.1.
Wetland type: 07, 08 & 15.
Description of site: A large area of brackish marshes, mangrove swamps and freshwater marshes on the coastal plain of the wet zone, northeast of Colombo. The wetland merges into Negombo Lagoon (site 32) to the Northwest. The main marsh is traversed by a navigational canal (the Hamilton Canal). In 1767, the first reclamation project commenced on the orders of Iman William Flack, the then Governor of Ceylon. Several attempts have since been made to reclaim the area, but mostly with little success because of the acid sulphate soils.
Climatic conditions: Tropical monsoonal climate; in the low country wet zone.
Principal vegetation: Mangrove swamps and grassy marshes.
Land tenure: The wetland is state owned; surrounding areas are privately owned.
Conservation measures taken: None.
Conservation measures proposed: As one of the few marshes in the Colombo area which has not yet been reclaimed for agriculture or filled in for development, Muthurajawela Swamp should be protected, not only for the benefit of wetland fauna and flora, but also as a recreational area (Hoffmann, 1987). There is now a movement by local NGOs to have at least essential portions of the marsh protected.
Land use: In historic times, the wetland was used for paddy cultivation, but salt intrusion has led to the abandonment of cultivation.
Possible changes in land use: The Greater Colombo Economic Commission has put forward a proposal to fill the marsh for housing developments and industrial estates.
Disturbances and threats: The principal long-term threat is reclamation for urban and industrial development. Present disturbances include heavy shooting pressure, the cutting of mangroves for poles, over-fishing and illicit manufacture of liquor.
Fauna: An important area for a wide variety of water birds, including many herons and egrets, Anastomus oscitans, Dendrocygna javanica and wintering ducks (mainly Anasquer quedula and A. acuta). Waterfowl recorded during the mid-winter censuses in January 1987 and January 1988 included Phalacrocorax carbo, Ixobrychus sinensis, I. flavicollis, Ardeola
Porphyrio porphyrio, Vanellus indicus and Gallinago stenura.
Flora: Mangroves, canals and other species
The name Muthurajawela has been derived from Sinhalese language which the majority of Sri Lankans use to communicate. The meaning can be translated in to English simply as “Swamp of Royal Treasure”. Treasures of kings in olden days are believed to be buried in that area.
The boundaries span from Negombo lagoon which also helps to create a costal eco system, and Kelaniya River situated at the northern tip of Colombo. Muthurajawela is in close proximity to Colombo. Muthurajawela bears staggering species of flora and fauna. Numerically 192 flora and 209 fauna, excluding 102 species of birds have been discovered. Some indigenous floras and faunas have also been found in Muthurajawela marsh. Visitors may see water birds such as herons, egrets in abundance in the lagoon and the marsh. It is also a residence for 40 different species of fish, of which 15 falls under the category of indigenous fauna. The nocturnal animal, slender Loris, which is believed to be endangered, can be seen once in a blue moon.
Muthurajawela marsh has been declared as s sanctuary by the government in 1996 due to its vast bio diversity. Visitors may be assisted by the Muthurajawela marsh centre. The centre educates people about the importance of Muthurajawela.