Monday, August 18, 2008

Sri Lanka National Atlas, 2nd edition launched

The Survey Department of Sri Lanka which functions under the Ministry of Lands and Land Development launched the second edition of the National Atlas, marking another milestone in its history of 208 years. The atlas was first published in 1988.

The first copy of the second edition was presented to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a ceremony held on July 16 at Temple Trees.

During the past two decades, the country has undergone significant social and economic changes which have had an impact on physical, social and economic conditions.

Remarkable changes have taken place in the fields of agriculture, demography, transport, industry, commerce, administration and infrastructure development. Two unfortunate events, the civil unrest in some parts of the country and the unprecedented impact of the tsunami of 2004 too have contributed to the changes in the socio-economic scenario.

In view of the above, and the availability of more recent data from the Census of Population of 2001 and numerous other surveys conducted since the publication of the first edition of the National Atlas, the Survey Department embarked on the challenging task of producing a more detailed and comprehensive publication. An Editorial Board under the chairmanship of the then Surveyor General Ranasinghe Silva consisting of eminent persons with considerable experience and expertise in their respective fields drawn from the National Universities and Government Departments was set up. They were Professor Senake Dias Bandaranayake, Professor M.M. Karunanayake, Professor Lalini Rajapaksa, Professor D.S. Epitawatte, Professor Dayantha Wijeyesekera, Dr. A.T.P.L. Abeykoon, Dr. R.M.K. Ratnayake and Dr.T. Jayasingam.

The immediate task of the editorial board was the selection of themes that were relevant to a National Atlas. The next task was the identification of local experts to write the required articles according to the agreed design and contents. To facilitate the work of the Atlas, the Survey Department set up an Atlas Unit which was responsible for the production of the atlas. As Chairman of the Editorial Board, the Surveyor General had to play a pivotal role in the entire production of the National Atlas over the past five years.

Despite many constraints, the new edition of the National Atlas has been published. The nine themes in the first edition were enlarged to twelve and the 58 sub themes to 80 with each section committed to a well documented and authentic information. The themes are (1) Location maps (2) Maps of Sri Lanka (3) Physical and Biological Environment (4) Archaeology and Arts (5) Population (6) Agriculture (7) Transport Energy and Industry, (8) Commerce (9) Economy (10) Government, Administration and Justice (11) Social Conditions (12) Education and Training.

Each theme has been sub-divided into several well integrated sub-themes. The Atlas comprises 253 pages with 31 colourful full page maps and 27 multi-scale maps, 207 other map-figures as well as numerous tables and 80 texts. Colourful photographs have been used for visual impact, where necessary. Out of the 80 sub-themes, special emphasis has been paid to physical and biological environment. The sub-themes include Geology, Mineral Resources, Oceanography, Climate, Natural Hazards and Disasters etc.

Some of the other prominent themes are Archaeological Reserves and Protected Monuments, Population Growth, Distribution and Density, Ethnicity, Religion, Land Use, Marine Fishery, Transport, Tourism, Health, Employment and Education. Apart from the few reproductions of early maps, all the maps and diagrams have been specially prepared for this Atlas.

The text written by various authors on numerous themes are illustrated with maps and figures.

One of the challenging tasks of the Editorial Board was the reviewing of the draft themes – some of them several times to arrive at a uniform style.

Most of the basic geo-data available in the Department and data from other institutions have been made use of in the production of maps to make the texts lucid and meaningful. The authors interacted with the cartographers as to how best the data could be portrayed in the maps. It is truly a product of team work of a multi-disciplinary group of specialists and professionals working together.

Use of modern software along with computer technology to design a variety of maps is a significant landmark in cartography. As for the printing of the Atlas much emphasis was given to the quality of the final product .This was finally made possible by four colour off-set printing utilizing a sophisticated printing machine of the Department of Government Printing.

As in the case of the first edition, this too is truly an indigenous effort without involving any foreign experts which has once again proved the ingenuity of our experts. The National Atlas presents a snapshot picture of historical and current events as seen in the more recent periods.

Another concern for the publishers was the pricing of the new edition. Though the cost of the production of the Atlas was high, for the benefit of the users, it has been moderately priced at Rs. 6000. Having in mind the wider readership of the English language worldwide, it was decided to print the National Atlas in English. It has also been planned to publish an abridged school edition in the national languages Sinhala and Tamil and also in English at an affordable price, so that it could reach the student population.

The Atlas will be available at the Map Sales Centre of the Survey Department Colombo, Institute of Surveying and Mapping at Diyatalawa and at the District Survey offices. To cater to the demand from the international community arrangements have been made to accept foreign orders.



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