North Central Province is the largest province in the country, covering 16 percent of the country’s total land area. It consists of two districts, namely Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura. The latter is the largest district in the country and has an ancient capital city with several heritage sites. It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The province was home to five kingdoms of Tambapanni, Upatissa, Anuradhapura, Sigiriya, and Polonanaruwa. It has also been referred as the cradle of Sri Lankan culture and religion with a recorded history from 6 BC. It was established as a separate administrative unit in 1873 by the British administration.
With more than 3000 medium and large scale tanks, it is popularly known as Wew Bendi Rajj (an area identified as hydrologically stable). It is dominated by Tamils in the north and Sinhalese in the south.
The total estimated population of the province is 1,349,000. Of this, 51 percent (688,000) is female and 49 percent (661,000) is male.
According to Census of Population and Housing 2012, majority of the population is rural in nature (96 percent) and the remaining 4 percent is urban, which means that there are no estate areas in the province.
By ethnicity, the population is divided into Sinhalese (90.9 percent), Sri Lankan Moors (8 percent), Tamils (1 percent) and others (0.1 percent). Buddhist (90 percent), Muslims (8 percent), Hindus (0.8 percent) and other religious groups (1.2 percent) constitute the religion-wise distribution of the population. The percentage of literate population (aged 10 years and above) is 95.4 percent (1,029,994). The literacy rate among males is 96.6 percent and among females is 94.3 percent. Official languages are Sinhala and Tamil.
Majority of the rural population in the province depends on agriculture as the main source of livelihood. Rice is the most commonly grown crop. The region contributes the largest portion of grain production in the country and is therefore, recognized as the ‘bread basket’ of the country.
According to the 2015 estimates, the share of North Central Province in the overall GDP of the country was 5.4 percent. The Provincial GDP Nominal Growth Rate reached 12.1 percent. This is the highest growth rate recorded among all provinces. The sector-wise contribution to the GDP is Agriculture (13.8 percent), Industry (22 percent) and Services (57 percent). The per capita income ratio of the province is 0.9.
As per the 2012 estimates, the total employed population (aged 15 years and above) is 484,697. 72.6 percent of this is male and 27.4 percent is female. The 2012-13 estimates show that the poverty head count index for the province is 7.3 percent and its contribution to total poverty is 6.7 percent. The poverty gap index is 1 percent.
Presently, P.B. Dissanayake is the Governor of the province and Peshala Jayarathna is the Chief Minister. United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is the party in power in North Central Province. The tenure of the Provincial Council ended in October last year and the provincial elections are set to take place this year. Recently, a new political outfit - Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) – has been floated by the supporters of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.