The name Muthurajawela has been coined from Sinhala meaning simply the Swamp of Royal Treasure for the treasures of kings in olden days are believed to be buried in that area. The Muthurajawela marshlands are situated towards the southern part of Negombo and its boundaries span from the Negombo lagoon which also helps to create a coastal eco-system, and the Kelaniya River located at the northern tip of Colombo.
The Muthurajawela marshlands are supposed to be Sri Lankas largest saline peat bog. It is believed to have originated about 7000 years ago as there are some residuals which have been in existence 500 years ago. The Muthurajawela is home to a multitude of endemic species of flora and fauna. About 192 flora and 209 fauna, excluding 102 species of birds have been discovered.
On a pleasant day, bird watchers can be treated to 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 a sanctuary by the government in 1996 due to its vast bio diversity. Covering a total land area of over 7,000 hectares, the Muthurajawela marsh and Negombo lagoon are part of a greater wetland ecosystem.
The Muthurajawela marshlands are the largest marsh area in the country and is a distinctive wetland habitat that is home to a variety of animals including reptiles and birds. The wetland ecosystem, however, is under severe threat caused by destructive fishing, encroachment, expanding housing areas, water pollution and social disparity.
However steps are now being taken by the government of Sri Lanka to minimize these problems by integrated planning process. Muthurajawela marsh, Negombo serves numerous uses which include fishery, agriculture, trade and shipping and habitation from the past.