Sri Lanka is getting ready to hold its first country-wide population census after a gap of 30 years, officials have said.
The last complete census was held in 1981 where residents of all 22 administrative districts across the country were counted. But subsequently, after the civil war broke out in 1983, only partial census could be held; in the last one held in 2001, the census could only be conducted in 18 districts where the impact of violence was limited.
In that census nine years ago, Sri Lanka's population stood at 20 million.
"Due to the problems in the country, conducting a census throughout the island was not possible. The 2001 census was conducted only in 18 districts," H R Gunasekera, a senior census and statistics department official was quoted by Xinhua as having said.
The 2001 census left out the districts in the north and the east where separatist rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) controlled large swathes of land till they were militarily defeated in May, 2009.
"We will do the census in three stages. Geographic demarcation of administrative units has already begun. In the second quarter of the year, the building census will begin. Enumeration of people would begin in the last quarter," Gunasekera said.
Government troops defeated the LTTE in May 2009, ending the group's armed struggle for a separate state. Between 80,000 and 100,000 people were killed in the fighting.
The census will not only update the country's population but would also help in removing discrepancies in the number of people assumed to be living in war-affected regions and the actual number residing in those districts.
Hundreds of thousands of the original inhabitants of those districts have also migrated to other countries or moved to the western province, where Colombo, is located.
The census will also finally reveal the number of houses and buildings completely or partially destroyed in the civil war.