Nepal

Nepal, officially the Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia.

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Nepal (नेपाल) (i/nɛˈpɔːl/ ne-PAWL[6] Nepali: नेपाल [neˈpal] ( listen)), officially the Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. With an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi) and a population of approximately 27 million (and 2 million absentee workers living abroad),[7] Nepal is the world's 93rd largest country by land mass[8] and the 41st most populous country. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. Specifically, the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Sikkim border Nepal, while across the Himalayas lies the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and largest metropolis.

Nepal has a rich geography. The mountainous north has eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali. It contains more than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft (6,096 m) above sea level.[9] The fertile and humid south is heavily urbanized.

Hinduism is practised by about 81% of Nepalese - making it the country with the highest percentage of Hindu followers.[10] Buddhism, though a minority faith in the country, is linked historically with Nepal.

A monarchy throughout most of its history, Nepal was ruled by the Shah dynasty of kings from 1768, when Prithvi Narayan Shah unified its many small kingdoms. However, a decade-long Civil War by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and several weeks of mass protests by all major political parties led to the 12 point agreement of 22 November 2005. The ensuing elections for the constituent assembly on 28 May 2008 overwhelmingly favored the abolishment of the monarchy and the establishment of a federal multiparty representative democratic republic.

Etymology

Ne Muni

Local legends say that a Hindu sage named "Ne" established himself in the valley of Kathmandu in prehistoric times and that the word "Nepal" came into existence as the place protected ("pala" in Sanskrit) by the sage "Ne". This folk etymology of the name Nepal means, "the country looked after by Ne".[11]

He is said to have performed religious ceremonies at Teku, at the confluence of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers.[12] and to have selected a pious cowherd to be the first of the many kings of the Gopala Dynasty.[11] These rulers are said to have ruled Nepal for over 500 years.[13] He selected Bhuktaman to be the first king in the line of the Gopala (Cowherd) Dynasty.[12] The Gopala dynasty is said to have ruled for 621 years. Yakshya Gupta was the last king of this dynasty.

However, according to the Skanda Purana, a rishi called "Ne" or "Nemuni" used to live in Himalaya.[14] In the Pashupati Purana, he is mentioned as a saint and a protector.[15] He is said to have practised meditation at the Bagmati and Kesavati rivers[16] and to have taught there.[11]

Nepal Bhasa origin

The word "Nepal" is believed by scholars to be derived from the word "Nepa:" which refers to the Newar Kingdom, the present day Kathmandu Valley. In early Sanskrit sources (Atharvaveda Parisista) and in Gupta period inscriptions, the country is referred to as Nepala. The Newars of present day Nepal, the inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley and its peripheries, were referred as "Nepa" before the advent of Shah dynasty.

History

Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.

It appears that Kirata people were one of the first to settle in Nepal; they are said to have ruled Nepal for about 2,500 years.[17]

Ancient

Nepal is first mentioned in the late Vedic text, Atharvaveda Parisista as a place exporting blankets, and in the post-Vedic Atharva Siras Upanisad.[18] In Samudragupta's Allahabad inscription it is mentioned as a bordering country. The 'Skanda Purana' has a separate chapter known as 'Nepal Mahatmya', which "explains in more details about the beauty and power of Nepal."[19] Nepal is also mentioned in Hindu texts such as the Narayana Puja.[18]

Around 500 BCE, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose in the southern regions of Nepal. From one of these, the Shakya polity, arose a prince named Siddharta Gautama (traditionally dated 563–483 BCE), who later renounced his status to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the Buddha ("the enlightened one"). It is believed that the 7th Kirata king, Jitedasti, was on the throne in the Nepal valley at the time. By 250 BCE, the southern regions came under the influence of the Mauryan Empire of northern India, and Nepal later on became a nominal vassal state under the Gupta Empire in the fourth century CE. Beginning in the 3rd century CE, rulers called the Licchavis governed the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding central Nepal.

There is a quite detailed description of the kingdom of Nepal in the account of the renowned Chinese Buddhist pilgrim monk Xuanzang, dating from c. 645 CE.[20][21]

The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late eighth century, probably due to Tibetan dominance, and was followed by a Newari or Thakuri era, from 879 CE (Nepal Samvat 1), although the extent of their control over the country is uncertain. In the 11th century it seems to have included the Pokhara area.

Medieval

Former royal palace at Basantapur, Kathmandu

In the early 12th century, leaders emerged in far western Nepal whose names ended with the Sanskrit suffix malla ("wrestler"). These kings consolidated their power and ruled over the next 200 years, until the kingdom splintered into two dozen petty states. Another Malla dynasty, beginning with Jayasthiti, emerged in the Kathmandu valley in the late 14th century, and much of central Nepal again came under a unified rule. However, in 1482 the realm was divided into three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.

Kingdom of Nepal

Hindu temples in Patan, capital of one of the three medieval Newar kingdoms

In the mid-18th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha king, set out to put together what would become present-day Nepal. He embarked on his mission after seeking arms and aid from India and buying the neutrality of bordering Indian kingdoms. After several bloody battles and sieges, notably the Battle of Kirtipur, he managed to conquer the Kathmandu Valley in 1769. A detailed account of Prithvi Narayan Shah's victory was written by Father Giuseppe who was an eyewitness to the war.[22]

In 1788 the Nepalese overran Sikkim and sent a punitive raid into Tibet. Kangra in northern India was also occupied by the Nepalese. In 1809, Ranjit Singh the ruler of the Sikh state in the Punjab, had intervened and drove the Nepalese army east of the Satluj river.[23]

At its maximum extent, Greater Nepal extended from the Tista River in the east, to Kangara, across the Sutlej River in the west as well as further south into the Terai plains and north of the Himalayas than at present. A dispute with Tibet over the control of mountain passes and inner Tingri valleys of Tibet forced the Qing Emperor in Peking to start the Sino-Nepalese War compelling the Nepalese to retreat and pay heavy reparations to Peking.

Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1815–16). At first the British underestimated the Nepalese and were soundly defeated until committing more military resources than they had anticipated needing. They were greatly impressed by the valour and competence of their adversaries. Thus began the reputation of "Gurkhas" as fierce and ruthless soldiers. The war ended in the Treaty of Sugauli, under which Nepal ceded recently captured portions of Sikkim and lands in Terai as well as the right to recruit soldiers. Madheshis, though having supported the British East India Company during the war, had their lands gifted to Nepalese.

Factionalism inside the royal family had led to a period of instability. In 1846 a plot was discovered revealing that the reigning queen had planned to overthrow Jung Bahadur Kunwar, a fast-rising military leader. This led to the Kot Massacre; armed clashes between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen led to the execution of several hundred princes and chieftains around the country. Jung Bahadur Kunwar emerged victorious and founded the Rana Lineage and was later known as Jung Bahadur Rana.

The king was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary. The Ranas were staunchly pro-British and assisted them during the Indian Sepoy Rebellion in 1857 (and later in both World Wars). Some parts of the Terai Region populated with non Nepalese peoples were gifted to Nepal by the British as a friendly gesture, because of her military help to sustain British control in India during the Sepoy Rebellion. In 1923, the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, which superseded the Sugauli Treaty signed in 1816.

Nepalese royalty in the 1920s

Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924.[24] Nevertheless debt bondage even involving debtors' children has been a persistent social problem in the Terai.

In the late 1940s, newly emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Meanwhile, with the invasion of Tibet by China in the 1950s, India sought to counterbalance the perceived military threat from its northern neighbour by taking pre-emptive steps to assert more influence in Nepal. India sponsored both King Tribhuvan (ruled 1911–55) as Nepal's new ruler in 1951 and a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party, thus terminating Rana hegemony in the kingdom.

After years of power wrangling between the king and the government, King Mahendra (ruled 1955–72) scrapped the democratic experiment in 1959, and a "partyless" panchayat system was made to govern Nepal until 1989, when the "Jan Andolan" (People's Movement) forced King Birendra (ruled 1972–2001) to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament that took seat in May 1991.[25] In 1991–92, Bhutan expelled roughly 100,000 Bhutanese citizens of Nepali descent, most of whom have been living in seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal ever since.[26]

Bhutanese refugees of ethnic Nepalese descent who were expelled from Bhutan in the early 1990s.

In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) started a bid to replace the royal parliamentary system with a people's socialist republic by violent means. This led to the long Nepal Civil War and more than 12,000 deaths. On 1 June 2001, there was a massacre in the royal palace. King Birendra, Queen Aiswarya, and seven other members of the royal family were killed. The perpetrator was Crown Prince Dipendra, who committed suicide (he died three days later) shortly thereafter. This outburst was alleged to have been Dipendra's response to his parents' refusal to accept his choice of wife. Nevertheless there are speculation and doubts among Nepalese citizens about who was responsible.

Following the carnage, Birendra's brother Gyanendra inherited the throne. On 1 February 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers to quash the violent Maoist movement,[25] but this initiative was unsuccessful because a stalemate had developed where the Maoists were firmly entrenched in large expanses of countryside yet could not dislodge the military from numerous towns and the largest cities. In September 2005, the Maoists declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire to negotiate.

In response to the 2006 democracy movement King Gyanendra agreed to relinquish sovereign power to the people. On 24 April 2006 the dissolved House of Representatives was reinstated. Using its newly acquired sovereign authority, on 18 May 2006 the House of Representatives unanimously voted to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state, ending its time-honoured official status as a Hindu Kingdom. On 28 December 2007, a bill was passed in parliament to amend Article 159 of the constitution – replacing "Provisions regarding the King" by "Provisions of the Head of the State" – declaring Nepal a federal republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy.[27] The bill came into force on 28 May 2008.[28]

Republic

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly election held on 10 April 2008, and formed a coalition government which included most of the parties in the CA. Although acts of violence occurred during the pre-electoral period, election observers noted that the elections themselves were markedly peaceful and "well-carried out".[29]

The newly elected Assembly met in Kathmandu on 28 May 2008, and, after a polling of 564 constituent Assembly members, 560 voted to form a new government,[28][30] with the monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which had four members in the assembly, registering a dissenting note. At that point, it was declared that Nepal had become a secular and inclusive democratic republic,[31] with the government announcing a three-day public holiday from 28 to 30 May.[citation needed] The King was thereafter given 15 days to vacate the Narayanhiti Royal Palace, to re-open it as a public museum.[32]

Nonetheless, political tensions and consequent power-sharing battles have continued in Nepal. In May 2009, the Maoist-led government was toppled and another coalition government with all major political parties barring the Maoists was formed. [33]Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) was made the Prime Minister of the coalition government.[34] In February 2011 the Madhav Kumar Nepal Government was toppled and Jhala Nath Khanal of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) was made the Prime Minister.[35] In August 2011 the Jhala Nath Khanal Government was toppled and Baburam Bhattarai of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was made the Prime Minister. [36]

Geography

Mount Everest, the highest peak on earth, lies in Nepal

NASA Landsat-7 Image of Nepal. Nepal shares most of its boundaries with India.

Barun Valley – There are many such valleys in the Himalaya created by glacier flows.

Kali Gandaki Gorge, the deepest gorge on earth.

Nepal is of roughly trapezoidal shape, 800 kilometres (497 mi) long and 200 kilometres (124 mi) wide, with an area of 147,181 km2 (56,827 sq mi). See List of territories by size for the comparative size of Nepal. It lies between latitudes 26° and 31°N, and longitudes 80° and 89°E.

Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: Mountain, Hill and Terai. These ecological belts run east-west and are vertically intersected by Nepal's major, north to south flowing river systems.

The southern lowland plains or Terai bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They were formed and are fed by three major Himalayan rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani, and the Karnali as well as smaller rivers rising below the permanent snowline. This region has a subtropical to tropical climate. The outermost range of foothills called Shiwalik or Churia Range cresting at 700 to 1,000 metres (2,297 to 3,281 ft) marks the limit of the Gangetic Plain, however broad, low valleys called Inner Tarai (Bhitri Tarai Uptyaka) lie north of these foothills in several places.

The Hill Region (Pahad) abuts the mountains and varies from 800 to 4,000 metres (2,625 to 13,123 ft) in altitude with progression from subtropical climates below 1,200 metres (3,937 ft) to alpine climates above 3,600 metres (11,811 ft). The Mahabharat Range reaching 1,500 to 3,000 metres (4,921 to 9,843 ft) is the southern limit of this region, with subtropical river valleys and "hills" alternating to the north of this range. Population density is high in valleys but notably less above 2,000 metres (6,562 ft) and very low above 2,500 metres (8,202 ft) where snow occasionally falls in winter.

The Mountain Region (Parbat), situated in the Great Himalayan Range, makes up the northern part of Nepal. It contains the highest elevations in the world including 8,848 metres (29,029 ft) height Mount Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepali) on the border with China. Seven other of the world's eight thousand metre peaks are in Nepal or on its border with China: Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu.

Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to the altitudes. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200 metres (3,937 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400 metres (3,937 to 7,874 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600 metres (7,874 to 11,811 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400 metres (11,811 to 14,436 ft), and the Arctic zone above 4,400 metres (14,436 ft).

Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalaya blocks cold winds from Central Asia in the winter and forms the northern limit of the monsoon wind patterns. In a land once thickly forested, deforestation is a major problem in all regions, with resulting erosion and degradation of ecosystems.

Nepal is popular for mountaineering, containing some of the highest and most challenging mountains in the world, including Mount Everest. Technically, the south-east ridge on the Nepali side of the mountain is easier to climb; so, most climbers prefer to trek to Everest through Nepal.

Neotectonics

The collision between the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian continent, which started in Paleogene time and continues today, produced the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau, a spectacular modern example of the effects of plate tectonics. Nepal lies completely within this collision zone, occupying the central sector of the Himalayan arc, nearly one third of the 2,400 km (1,500 mi)-long Himalayas.[37][38][39][40][41][42]

The Indian plate continues to move north relative to Asia at the rate of approximately 50 mm (2.0 in) per year.[43] Given the great magnitudes of the blocks of the Earth's crust involved, this is remarkably fast, about twice the speed at which human fingernails grow. As the strong Indian continental crust subducts beneath the relatively weak Tibetan crust, it pushes up the Himalayan mountains. This collision zone has accommodated huge amounts of crustal shortening as the rock sequences slide one over another. As such Nepal is prone to frequent earthquakes, a major earthquake happening within every 100 years.[44]

Erosion of the Himalayas is a very important source of sediment, which flows via several great rivers (the Indus to the Indian Ocean, and the Ganges and Brahmaputra river system) to the Bay of Bengal.[45]

Environment

Manang Valley.

Subdivisions of Nepal

The dramatic differences in elevation found in Nepal result in a variety of biomes, from tropical savannas along the Indian border, to subtropical broadleaf and coniferous forests in the Hill Region, to temperate broadleaf and coniferous forests on the slopes of the Himalaya, to montane grasslands and shrublands and rock and ice at the highest elevations.

At the lowest elevations is the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands ecoregion. These form a mosaic with the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, which occur from 500 to 1,000 metres (1,600 to 3,300 ft) and include the Inner Terai Valleys. Himalayan subtropical pine forests occur between 1,000 and 2,000 metres (3,300 and 6,600 ft).

Above these elevations, the biogeography of Nepal is generally divided from east to west by the Gandaki River. Ecoregions to the east tend to receive more precipitation and to be more species-rich. Those to the west are drier with fewer species.

From 1,500 to 3,000 metres (4,900 to 9,800 ft), are temperate broadleaf forests: the eastern and western Himalayan broadleaf forests. From 3,000 to 4,000 metres (9,800 to 13,000 ft) are the eastern and western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. To 5,500 metres (18,000 ft) are the eastern and western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows.

Politics

Singha Durbar, the seat of Nepalese government

Nepal has seen rapid political changes during the last two decades. Up until 1990, Nepal was a monarchy under executive control of the King. Faced with a communist movement against absolute monarchy, King Birendra, in 1990, agreed to a large-scale political reform by creating a parliamentary monarchy with the King as the head of state and a Prime Minister as the head of the government.

Nepal's legislature was bicameral, consisting of a House of Representatives called the Pratinidhi Sabha and a National Council called the Rastriya Sabha. The House of Representatives consisted of 205 members directly elected by the people. The National Council had 60 members: ten nominated by the king, 35 elected by the House of Representatives, and the remaining 15 elected by an electoral college made up of chairs of villages and towns. The legislature had a five-year term but was dissolvable by the king before its term could end. All Nepali citizens 18 years and older became eligible to vote.

The executive comprised the King and the Council of Ministers (the cabinet). The leader of the coalition or party securing the maximum seats in an election was appointed as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet was appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Governments in Nepal tended to be highly unstable, falling either through internal collapse or parliamentary dissolution by the monarch, on the recommendation of the prime minister, according to the constitution; no government has survived for more than two years since 1991.

The movement in April 2006 brought about a change in the nation's governance: an interim constitution was promulgated, with the King giving up power, and an interim House of Representatives was formed with Maoist members after the new government held peace talks with the Maoist rebels. The number of parliamentary seats was also increased to 330. In April 2007, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) joined the interim government of Nepal.

In December 2007, the interim parliament passed a bill making Nepal a federal republic, with a president as head of state. Elections for the constitutional assembly were held on 10 April 2008; the Maoist party led the results but did not achieve a simple majority of seats.[46] The new parliament adopted the 2007 bill at its first meeting by an overwhelming majority, and King Gyanendra was given 15 days to leave the Royal Palace in central Kathmandu. He left on 11 June.[47]

On 26 June, the prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who had served as Acting Head of State since January 2007, announced that he would resign on the election of the country's first president by the Constituent Assembly. The first round of voting, on 19 July, saw Parmanand Jha win election as Nepali vice-president, but neither of the contenders for president received the required 298 votes and a second round was held two days later. Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepali Congress party defeated Maoist-backed Ram Raja Prasad Singh with 308 of the 590 votes cast.[48] Koirala submitted his resignation to the new president after Yadav's swearing-in ceremony on 23 July.

Prachanda speaking at a rally in Pokhara.

On 15 August 2008, Maoist leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) was elected Prime Minister of Nepal, the first since the country's transition from a monarchy to a republic. On 4 May 2009, Dahal resigned over on-going conflicts with regard to the sacking of the Army chief. Since Dahal's resignation, the country has been in a serious political deadlock with one of the big issues being the proposed integration of the former Maoist combatants, also known as the People's Liberation Army, into the national security forces.[49] After Dahal, Jhala Nath Khanal of CPN (UML) was elected the Prime Minister. Khanal was forced to step down as he could not succeed in carrying forward the Peace Process and the constitution writing. On August 2011, Maoist Dr. Babu Ram Bhattarai became third Prime Minister after the election of constituent assembly.[50] On 24 May 2012, Nepals's Deputy PM Krishna Sitaula resigned.[51]

On 27 May 2012, the country's Constituent Assembly failed to meet the deadline for writing a new constitution for the country. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai announced that new elections will be held on 22 November. "We have no other option but to go back to the people and elect a new assembly to write the constitution," he said in a nationally televised speech. One of the main obstacles has been disagreement over whether the states which will be created will be based on ethnicity.[52]

Nepal has also been noted for its recent speed of development, such as being one of the few countries in Asia to abolish the death penalty[53] and the first country in Asia to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. The decision was based on a seven-person government committee study, and enacted through Supreme Court's ruling November 2008. The ruling granted full rights for LGBT individuals, including the right to marry.[54]

Government

Nepal is a multi-party system federal republic. The Interim Constitution of Nepal, 2063 has defined three organs of the government.

  • Executive: The executive power of Nepal is vested in the Council of Ministers. The responsibility of issuing general directives, controlling and regulating the administration of Nepal lie in the Council of Ministers. The Prime Minister of Nepal is the head of the Government. The Prime Minister appoints the Ministers. While appointing Ministers, the Prime Minister shall appoint them, on the recommendation of the concerned political party, from amongst the members of the Legislature-Parliament.
  • Legislative: The Legislature-Parliament of Nepal is unicameral. Constituent assembly is working as thee legislature of Nepal at present. Legislative is composed of 601 members. Among them, 240 members are directly elected by the people from 240 constituencies. 335 members are elected through proportional basis and 26 members are nominated by the cabinet.All the bills are presented in the parliament. After passing the bills by the majority. After his approval, it becomes the law. In this way, all the laws are made in the parliament.The legislative controls over the finance of the country. Legislative passes the annual budget according to which the government spends money in various tasks.Legislative can raise questions to any work of the government. If the government does not work properly, legislative can withdraw its support and government is dissolved. In this way the legislative has control over the executive.
  • Judiciary: The Constitution provides three tiers of Court which include the Supreme Court of Nepal, the Court of Appeal and the District Courts. Supreme Court is the Apex Court. All courts and judicial institutions except the constitutional assembly court, are under the supreme court. There is no distinction between Criminal and Civil court except some basic procedures. District Court is the Court of first instance upon which Court of Appeal hear appeal. In addition to these regular courts there is provision in constitution to establish special types of courts or tribunals for the purpose of hearing special types of cases by the law. According to these provision there are four Revenue Tribunals, one Administrative Court, one Labor Court, one Debt Recovery tribunal and one Debt recovery Appeal Tribunal and one special court are functioning under the respective laws. These institutions are under the judicial control of the Supreme Court. There are 16 Court of Appeal and 15 Districts in Nepal. The Supreme Court is also the ultimate interpreter of the constitution.

Subdivisions

Nepal is divided into 14 zones and 75 districts, grouped into five development regions. Each district is headed by a permanent chief district officer responsible for maintaining law and order and coordinating the work of field agencies of the various government ministries. The five regions and 14 zones are:

  • Eastern Region (Purwanchal)
    • Koshi
    • Mechi
    • Sagarmatha
  • Central Region (Madhyamanchal)
    • Bagmati
    • Janakpur
    • Narayani
  • Western Region (Pashchimanchal)
    • Dhawalagiri
    • Gandaki
    • Lumbini
  • Mid-Western Region (Madhya Pashchimanchal)
    • Bheri
    • Karnali
    • Rapti
  • Far-Western Region (Sudur Pashchimanchal)
    • Mahakali
    • Seti

Foreign relations and Military

A member of the Nepalese Quick Reactionary Force (QRF)

Nepal has close ties with both of its neighbours, India and China. In accordance with a long-standing treaty, Indian and Nepalese citizens may travel to each other's countries without a passport or visa. Nepalese citizens may work in India without legal restriction. However, since the Government of Nepal has been dominated by Socialists and India's by more right-wing parties, India has been remilitarizing the "porous" Indo-Nepali border, in order to stifle the flow of Islamist groups.[55] Nepal established relations with the People's Republic of China on 1 August 1955, and relations since have been based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Nepal has aided China in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and China has provided economic assistance for Nepali infrastructure. Both countries have cooperated to host the 2008 Summer Olympics summit of Mt. Everest.[56] Nepal has assisted in curbing anti-China protests from the Tibetan diaspora.[57]

Nepal's military consists of the Nepalese Army, which includes the Nepalese Army Air Service. The Nepalese Police Force is the civilian police and the Armed Police Force Nepal[58] is the paramilitary force. Service is voluntary and the minimum age for enlistment is 18 years. Nepal spends $99.2 million (2004) on its military—1.5% of its GDP. Much of the equipment and arms are imported from India. Consequently, the US provided M16s M4s and other Colt weapons to combat communist (Maoist) insurgents. As of now, the standard-issue battle rifle of the Nepalese army is the Colt M16.[59]

Economy

Terraced farming on the foothills of the Himalayas.

A Rs.500 banknote of The Republic of Nepal. For economic reasons, the watermark on the right still contains a picture of King Gyanendra, obscured by printing a rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal.[60]

Nepal's gross domestic product (GDP) for 2012 was estimated at over $17.921 billion (adjusted to Nominal GDP).[4] In 2010, agriculture accounted for 36.1%, services comprise 48.5%, and industry 15.4% of Nepal's GDP.[61] While agriculture and industry is contracting, the contribution by service sector is increasing.[61][62] Agriculture employs 76% of the workforce, services 18% and manufacturing/craft-based industry 6%.[citation needed] Agricultural produce – mostly grown in the Terai region bordering India – includes tea, rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, root crops, milk, and water buffalo meat. Industry mainly involves the processing of agricultural produce, including jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. Its workforce of about 10 million suffers from a severe shortage of skilled labor.

Nepal’s economic growth continues to be adversely affected by the political uncertainty. Nevertheless, real GDP growth is estimated to increase to almost 5 percent for 2011/2012. This is a considerable improvement from the 3.5 percent GDP growth in 2010/2011 and would be the second highest growth rate in the post-conflict era.[63] Sources of growth include agriculture, construction, financial and other services. The contribution of growth by consumption fueled by remittances has declined since 2010/2011. While remittance growth slowed to 11 percent (in Nepali Rupee terms) in 2010/2011 it has since increased to 37 percent. Remittances are estimated to be equivalent to 25-30 percent of GDP. Inflation has been reduced to a three-year low to 7 percent.[63]

The proportion of poor people has declined substantially in recent years. The percentage of people living below the international poverty line (people earning less than US$1.25 per day) has halved in only seven years.[63] At this measure of poverty the percentage of poor people declined from 53.1% in 2003/2004 to 24.8% in 2010/2011.[63] With a higher poverty line of US$2 dollars per-capita per day, poverty declined by one quarter to 57.3%.[63] However, the income distribution remains grossly uneven.[64]

The spectacular landscape and diverse, exotic cultures of Nepal represent considerable potential for tourism, but growth in this hospitality industry has been stifled by recent political events. In 2009, the number of international tourists visiting Nepal was 509,956.[citation needed] The Nepal Tourism Board plans to create a new Meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions (MICE) department by end-2012 to draw business events from neighbouring countries. The yield from MICE events is estimated to be twice the amount brought in by leisure tourism.[65]

The rate of unemployment and underemployment approaches half of the working-age population. Thus many Nepali citizens move to India in search of work; the Gulf countries and Malaysia being new sources of work. Nepal receives $50 million a year through the Gurkha soldiers who serve in the Indian and British armies and are highly esteemed for their skill and bravery.[citation needed] The total remittance value is worth around $1 billion, including money sent from the Persian Gulf and Malaysia, who combined employ around 700,000 Nepali citizens.[citation needed]

A long-standing economic agreement underpins a close relationship with India. The country receives foreign aid from India, Japan, the UK, the US, the EU, China, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries. Poverty is acute; per-capita income is around $1,000.[66] The distribution of wealth among the Nepalis is consistent with that in many developed and developing countries: the highest 10% of households control 39.1% of the national wealth and the lowest 10% control only 2.6%.[citation needed]

The government's budget is about $1.153 billion, with expenditure of $1.789 billion (FY05/06). The Nepalese rupee has been tied to the Indian Rupee at an exchange rate of 1.6 for many years. Since the loosening of exchange rate controls in the early 1990s, the black market for foreign exchange has all but disappeared. The inflation rate has dropped to 2.9% after a period of higher inflation during the 1990s.[citation needed]

Nepal's exports of mainly carpets, clothing, leather goods, jute goods and grain total $822 million. Import commodities of mainly gold, machinery and equipment, petroleum products and fertilizer total US$2 bn. EU (46.13%), the US (17.4%), and Germany (7.1%) are its main export partners. Recently, the European Union has become the largest buyer of Nepali ready made garments (RMG). Exports to the EU accounted for "46.13 percent of the country’s total garment exports".[67] Nepal's import partners include India (47.5%), the United Arab Emirates (11.2%), China (10.7%), Saudi Arabia (4.9%), and Singapore (4%).[citation needed]

Besides having landlocked, rugged geography, few tangible natural resources and poor infrastructure, the ineffective post-1950 government and the long-running civil war is also a factor in stunting the economic growth and development.[68][69][70]

Infrastructure

Energy

The bulk of the energy need is dominated by fuel wood (68%), agricultural waste (15%), animal dung (8%) and imported fossil fuel (8%).[71][72] Except for some lignite deposits, Nepal has no known oil, gas or coal deposits. All commercial fossil fuels (mainly oil and coal) are either imported from India or from international markets routed through India. Fuel imports absorb over one-fourth of Nepal's foreign exchange earnings.[72]

Only about 1% energy need is fulfilled by electricity. Paradoxically, the perennial nature of Nepali rivers and the steep gradient of the country's topography provide ideal conditions for the development of some of the world's largest hydroelectric projects in Nepal. Current estimates put Nepal's economically feasible hydropower potential to be approximately 44,000 MW from 66 hydropower project sites.[72] However, currently Nepal has been able to exploit only about 600 MW from 20 major hydropower plants and a number of small and micro hydropower plants.[71] There are 9 major hydropower plants under construction, and additional 27 sites considered for potential development.[71]

Only about 40% of Nepal's population has access to electricity.[71] Even in this scenario there is a great disparity between urban and rural areas. Electrification rate in urban area is 90 percent where as that in rural area is 5 percent only. The position of power sector remains unsatisfactory because of high tariff, high system losses, high generation costs, high overheads, over staffing and lower domestic demand.[72]

Transport

Nepal remains isolated from the world's major land, air and sea transport routes although, within the country, aviation is in a better state, with 47 airports, 11 of them with paved runways;[73] flights are frequent and support a sizable traffic. The hilly and mountainous terrain in the northern two-thirds of the country has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. In 2007 there were just over 10,142 km (6,302 mi) of paved roads, and 7,140 km (4,437 mi) of unpaved road, and one 59 km (37 mi) railway line in the south.[73] There is a single reliable road route from India to the Kathmandu Valley.

The only practical seaport of entry for goods bound for Kathmandu is Calcutta in India. Internally, the poor state of development of the road system (22 of 75 administrative districts lack road links) makes volume distribution unrealistic.[68]

Communication

While the first telephones lines were introduced in Kathmandu in 1913, it was not until 1955 that telephone lines were distributed to the public. Likewise, both the telegram service and high frequency radio system (AM) were introduced in 1950. The first public telephone exchange was set up in Kathmandu (300 lines CB) in 1962, whereas the first automatic exchange was established in 1965 (1000 lines in Kathmandu). By 1995, Nepal had installed optical fiber network as well; whereas the GSM services were launched in 1999.[74]

According to the Nepal Telecommunication Authority MIS May 2012 report,[75] there are 7 operators and the total voice telephony subscribers including PSTN and mobile are 16,350,946 which give the penetration rate of 61.42%. The fixed telephone service account for 3.20%, mobile for 54.46%, and other services (LM, GMPCS) for 3.76% of the total penetration rate. Twelve months earlier the mobile penetration was 38.31%,[75] so this represents a growth rate of 42.15% for the mobile sector. However, the growth of fixed line telephony has been very low.[76] Similarly, the numbers of subscribers to data/internet services are 4,667,536 which represents 17.53% penetration rate. Most of the data service is accounted by GPRS users. Twelve months earlier the data/internet penetration was 10.05%, thus this represents a growth rate of 74.77%.[75]

Not only has there been strong subscriber growth, especially in the mobile sector, but there was evidence of a clear vision in the sector, including putting a reform process in place and planning for the building of necessary telecommunications infrastructure. Most importantly, the Ministry of Information and Communications (MoIC) and the telecom regulator, the National Telecommunications Authority (NTA), have both been very active in the performance of their respective roles.[77] Despite all the effort, there remained a significant disparity between the high coverage levels in the cities and the coverage available in the underdeveloped rural regions. Progress on providing some minimum access had been good, however. Of a total of 3,914 Village Development Committees across the country, only 306 were unserved by December 2009.[77] In order to meet future demand, it was estimated that Nepal needed to invest around US$135 million annually in its telecom sector.[77] In 2009, the telecommunication sector alone contributed to 1% of the nation's GDP.[78] As of 30 September, 2012, Nepal has 1,828,700 Facebook users.[79]

In the broadcast media, as of 2007, the state operates 2 television stations as well as national and regional radio stations. There are roughly 30 independent TV channels registered, with only about half in regular operation. Nearly 400 FM radio stations are licensed with roughly 300 operational.[73] According to the Press Council Nepal, as of 2012 there are 2038 registered newspapers in Nepal, among which 514 are in publication.[80]

Education

About two thirds of female adults and one third of male adults are illiterate.[81] Net primary enrollment rate was 74% in 2005.[81] It is currently at about 90%.[82] In 2009 the World Bank has decided to contribute a further $130 million towards meeting Nepal's Education for All goals.[82] Nepal has several universities.

Health

Health care services in Nepal are provided by both the public and private sector and fares poorly by international standards. Based on World Health Organization (WHO) data, Nepal ranked 139 in life expectancy in 2010 with the average Nepalese living to 65.8 years.[83][84] Disease prevalence is higher in Nepal than it is in other South Asian countries, especially in rural areas. Leading diseases and illnesses include diarrhea, gastrointestinal disorders, goiter, intestinal parasites, leprosy, visceral leishmaniasis and tuberculosis.[85] According to WHO data for 2010, about 4 out of 1,000 adults aged 15 to 49 had human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the HIV prevalence rate was 0.5%.[86][87] In spite of these figures, some improvements in health care have been made, most notably its significant progress in maternal-child health.[88][89] For example, Nepal’s HDI for health was 0.77 in 2011, ranking Nepal 126 out of 194 countries, up from 0.444 in 1980.[90][91]

Crime and law enforcement

Law enforcement in Nepal is primarily the responsibility of the Nepalese Police Force which is the national police of Nepal. It is independent of the Nepalese Army. In the days of its establishment, Nepal Police personnel were mainly drawn from the armed forces of the Nepali Congress Party which fought against feudal Rana autocracy in Nepal. Central Investigation Bureau(CIB) and National Investigation Department of Nepal (NID) are the investigation agencies of Nepal. They have offices in all 75 administrative districts including region offices in five regions and Zonal offices in fourteen Zones. Numbers varies from three to five members at each district level in rural districts and numbers can be higher in urban districts. They have both Domestic and International surveillance unit which mainly deals with cross border terrorists, drug trafficking, money laundering.

Capital punishment is was abolished in Nepal in 1997.[92]

In 2008, the Nepalese government abolished the Haliya system of forced labour, freeing about 20,000 people.[93]

Demographics

Population density map of Nepal

Nepal's population has grown from 9 million people in 1950 to 26.6 million in 2011.[94] Nepal's population increased from 23,151,423 in 2001 to 26,620,809, with a subsequent family size decline from 5.44 to 4.7[7] Although the population growth recorded was only 1.4 percent for the latest census period, some 1,917,903 absentee population was noted, over a million more than 762 thousand in 2001, most being male workers. This correlated with the drop in sex ratio from 94.41 as compared to 99.80 for 2001.[7]

The Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations from India, Tibet, and North Burma and the Chinese province of Yunnan via Assam. Even though Indo-Nepalese migrants were latecomers to Nepal relative to the migrants from the north, they have come to dominate the country not only numerically, but also socially, politically, and economically.[95]

Among the earliest inhabitants were the Kirat of east mid-region, Newar of the Kathmandu Valley and aboriginal Tharu in the southern Terai region. The ancestors of the Brahmin and Chetri caste groups came from India's present Kumaon, Garhwal and Kashmir regions, while other ethnic groups trace their origins to North Burma and Yunnan and Tibet, e.g. the Gurung and Magar in the west, Rai and Limbu in the east (from Yunnan and north Burma via Assam), and Sherpa and Bhutia in the north (from Tibet).

In the Terai, a part of the Ganges Basin with 20% of the land, much of the population is physically and culturally similar to the Indo-Aryans of northern India. Indo-Aryan and East-Asian-looking mixed people live in the hill region. Indo-Aryan ancestry has been a source of prestige in Nepal for centuries, and the ruling families have been of Indo-Aryan and Hindu background.[96] The mountainous highlands are sparsely populated. Kathmandu Valley, in the middle hill region, constitutes a small fraction of the nation's area but is the most densely populated, with almost 20% of the population.

Nepalese women dancing in Teej

Nepal is a multilingual society.

These data are largely derived from Nepal's 2001 census results published in the Nepal Population Report 2002.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Nepal hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers in 2007 numbering approximately 130,000. Of this population, approximately 109,200 persons were from Bhutan and 20,500 from People's Republic of China.[97][98] The government of Nepal restricted ethnic Nepalese expelled from Bhutan to seven camps in the Jhapa and Morang districts, and refugees were not permitted to work in most professions.[97] At present, the United States is working towards resettling more than 60,000 of these refugees in the US.[26]

Population Structure
Data Size
Population 26,620,000 (2011)
Growth Rate 1.6%
Population below 14 Years old 39%
Population of age 15 to 64 57.3%
Population above 65 3.7%
The median age (Average) 20.07
The median age (Male) 19.91
The median age (Females) 20.24
Ratio (Male:Female) 1, 000:1,060
Life expectancy (Average)( Reference: [2]) 66.16 Years
Life expectancy (Male) 64.94
Life expectancy (Female) 67.44
Literacy Rate (Average) 68.2% ( According to the UNDP report 2011)
Literacy Rate (Male) NA
Literacy Rate (Female) NA

A mountain village in Nepal

Despite the migration of a significant section of the population to the southern plains or terai in recent years, the majority of the population still lives in the central highlands. The northern mountains are sparsely populated.

Kathmandu, with a population of over 2.6 million (metropolitan area: 5 million), is the largest city in the country.

Languages

Nepal's diverse linguistic heritage evolved from four major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolian and various indigenous language isolates. The major languages of Nepal (percent spoken as mother tongue) are Nepali (70%), Maithili (5%), Bhojpuri (3%), Tharu (4%), Tamang (3%), Newari/Nepal Bhasa (3.6%), Magar (2.4%), Rai (2.8%), Awadhi (2.5%), Limbu (1.5%), and Bajjika (1%). In addition, Nepal is home to at least four indigenous sign languages.

Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali has roots in Sanskrit and is written in Devanagari script. Nepali is the official national language and serves as lingua franca among Nepalis of different ethnolinguistic groups. Regional dialects Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Maithili and rarely Hindi are spoken in the southern Terai Region. Many Nepalis in government and business speak English as well. Dialects of Tibetan are spoken in and north of the higher Himalaya where standard literary Tibetan is widely understood by those with religious education. Local dialects in the Terai and hills are mostly unwritten with efforts underway to develop systems for writing many in Devanagari or the Roman alphabet.

Religion

Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Nepal religiosity
religion percent
Hinduism 80.6%
Buddhism 10.7%
Islam 4.2%
Mundhum 3.6%
Christianity 0.5%
Other 0.4%

The overwhelming majority of the Nepalese population follows Hinduism. Shiva is regarded as the guardian deity of the country.[99] Nepal is home to the famous Lord Shiva temple, the Pashupatinath Temple, where Hindus from all over the world come for pilgrimage. According to mythology, Sita Devi of the epic Ramayana, was born in the Mithila Kingdom of King Janaka Raja.

Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site and UNESCO World Heritage Site site in the Kapilavastu district. Traditionally it is held to be the birthplace in about 563 B.C. of Siddhartha Gautama, a Kshatriya caste prince of the Sakya clan, who, as the Buddha Gautama, gave birth to the Buddhist tradition.

The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone, in which only monasteries can be built. All three main branches of Buddhism exist in Nepal and the Newa people have their own branch of the faith. Buddhism is also the dominant religion of the thinly populated northern areas, which are mostly inhabited by Tibetan-related peoples, such as the Sherpa.

The Buddha, born as a Hindu, is also said to be a descendant of Vedic Sage Angirasa in many Buddhist texts.[100] The Buddha's family surname is associated with Gautama Maharishi.[101] Differences between Hindus and Buddhists have been minimal in Nepal due to the cultural and historical intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Morever traditionally Buddhism and Hinduism were never two distinct religions in the western sense of the word. In Nepal, the faiths share common temples and worship common deities. Among other natives of Nepal, those more influenced by Hinduism were the Magar, Sunwar, Limbu and Rai and the Gurkhas.[17] Hindu influence is less prominent among the Gurung, Bhutia, and Thakali groups who employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies.[17] Most of the festivals in Nepal are Hindu.[102] The Machendrajatra festival, dedicated to Hindu Shaiva Siddha, is celebrated by many Buddhists in Nepal as a main festival.[103] As it is believed that Ne Muni established Nepal,[104] some important priests in Nepal are called "Tirthaguru Nemuni". Islam is a minority religion in Nepal, with 4.2% of the population being Muslim according to a 2006 Nepalese census.[105] Mundhum, Christianity and Jainism are other minority faiths.[106]

Largest cities

The 13 largest cities in 2001 (*2011) by population) [107]
  1. Kathmandu (1,006,656)*
  2. Biratnagar (Pop.: 166,674)
  3. Lalitpur (Pop.: 162,991)
  4. Pokhara (Pop.: 156,312)
  5. Birganj (Pop.: 112,238)
  6. Dharan (Pop.: 95,332)
  7. Bharatpur (Pop.: 89,323)
  8. Bhim Datta (Pop.:80,839)
  9. Janakpur (Pop.: 74,192)
  10. Butwal (Pop.: 75,384)
  11. Bhaktapur(Pop.: 72.543)
  12. Hetauda (Pop.:68,482)
  13. Dhangadhi (Pop.: 67,447)

Culture

Narayanhiti Palace Museum

Devotees of the Festival Chhath Parva in Janakpur, Nepal.

Traditional Nepalese cuisine- (Dalbhat)

A typical Nepalese meal is Dal bhat. Dal is a spicy lentil soup, served over bhat (boiled rice), served with tarkari (curried vegetables) together with achar (pickles) or chutni (spicy condiment made from fresh ingredients). It consists of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian items served with non-alcoholic beverages. Mustard oil is the cooking medium and a host of spices, such as cumin, coriander, black peppers, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi (fenugreek), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chillies, mustard seeds, etc., are used in the cooking. The cuisine served on festivals is generally the best.

Folklore is an integral part of Nepalese society. Traditional stories are rooted in the reality of day-to-day life, tales of love, affection and battles as well as demons and ghosts and thus reflect local lifestyles, cultures and beliefs. Many Nepalese folktales are enacted through the medium of dance and music.

The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Main annual holidays include the National Day, celebrated on the birthday of the king (28 December), Prithvi Jayanti (11 January), Martyr's Day (18 February), and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as dashain in autumn, and tihar in late autumn. During tihar, the Newar community also celebrates its New Year as per their local calendar Nepal Sambat.

Most houses in rural lowland of Nepal are made up of a tight bamboo framework and walls of a mud and cow-dung mix. These dwellings remain cool in summer and retain warmth in winter. Houses in the hills are usually made of unbaked bricks with thatch or tile roofing. At high elevations construction changes to stone masonry and slate may be used on roofs.

Nepal's flag is the only national flag in the world that is not rectangular in shape.[108] According to its official description, the red in the flag stands for victory in war or courage, and is also color of the rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. Red also stands for aggression. The flag's blue border signifies peace. The curved moon on the flag is a symbol of the peaceful and calm nature of Nepalese, while the sun represents the aggressiveness of Nepalese warriors.

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More information

Airports47 (2012)
Borders WithChina
Borders WithIndia
Coastline0 km (landlocked)
Coordinates28 00 N, 84 00 E
Domain Suffix.np
Ethnic GroupChhettri 15.5%
Ethnic GroupBrahman-Hill 12.5%
Ethnic GroupMagar 7%
Ethnic GroupTharu 6.6%
Ethnic GroupTamang 5.5%
Ethnic GroupNewar 5.4%
Ethnic GroupMuslim 4.2%
Ethnic GroupKami 3.9%
Ethnic GroupYadav 3.9%
Ethnic Groupother 32.7%
Ethnic Groupunspecified 2.8% (2001 census)
Female Life Expectancy67.82 years (2012 est.)
Female Median Age22.9 years (2012 est.)
Fertility Rate2.41 children born/woman (2012 est.)
GDP$38.08 billion (2011 est.)
GDP$36.66 billion (2010 est.)
GDP$34.97 billion (2009 est.)
GDP Growth3.9% (2011 est.)
GDP Growth4.8% (2010 est.)
GDP Growth4.5% (2009 est.)
Government typefederal democratic republic
Highest PointMount Everest 8,850 m
Land Area143,351 sq km
Land boundary2,926 km
LanguageAwadhi 2.4%
LanguageBhojpuri 7.4%
LanguageMagar 3.3%
LanguageMaithali 12.1%
LanguageNepali (official) 47.8%
LanguageNewar 3.6%
LanguageTamang 5.1%
LanguageTharu (Dagaura/Rana) 5.8%
Languageother 10%
Languageunspecified 2.5% (2001 census)
LocationSouthern Asia, between China and India
Lowest PointKanchan Kalan 70 m
Male Life Expectancy65.26 years
Male Median Age21.2 years
NationalityNepali (singular and plural)
Population Growth1.768% (2012 est.)
Railways59 km
RegionSouthern Asia
Roadways17,282 km
TerrainTarai or flat river plain of the Ganges in south, central hill region, rugged Himalayas in north
Total Area147,181 sq km
Total Life Expectancy66.51 years
Total Median Age22.1 years
Water Area3,830 sq km

References


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