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This article is about the country. For other uses, see Nepal (disambiguation).
Nepal (i/nɛˈpɔːl/ ne-pawl Nepali: नेपाल [neˈpal] ( listen)), officially the Federal 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 nearly 2 million absentee workers living abroad), Nepal is the world's 93rd largest country by land mass 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 (सगरमाथा) in Nepali. It contains more than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft (6,096 m) above sea level. The southern Terai region is fertile and humid.
Hinduism is practised by about 81% of Nepalis, making it the country with the highest percentage of Hindu followers; Buddhism is linked historically with Nepal and is practiced by 9%, Islam by 4.4%, Kirat 3%, Christianity 1.4%, and animism 0.4%.
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 involving the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (Now known as the Unified 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.
In recent developments, political parties of Nepal have agreed on forming an interim election government under the leadership of Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi in order to hold Constituent Assembly elections by June 21, 2013 to end the political deadlock.
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".
He is said to have performed religious ceremonies at Teku, at the confluence of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers, and to have selected a pious cowherd to be the first of the many kings of the Gopala Dynasty. These rulers are said to have ruled Nepal for over 500 years. He selected Bhuktaman to be the first king in the line of the Gopala (Cowherd) Dynasty. 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. In the Pashupati Purana, he is mentioned as a saint and a protector. He is said to have practised meditation at the Bagmati and Kesavati rivers and to have taught there.
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.
Main article: History of Nepal
Nepal is first mentioned in the late Vedic text, Atharvaveda Parisista as a place exporting blankets, and in the post-Vedic Atharva Siras Upanisad. 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." Nepal is also mentioned in Hindu texts such as the Narayana Puja.
According to Gopal Vansawali, the genealogy of Nepalese monarchy, the earliest settlers in Nepal were Gopalas, followed by Mahispala, followed by Kirata. Tibeto-Burman people probably lived in Nepal 2,500 years ago. However, there is no archaeologic evidence of Gopala, Mahispala or Kirata rulers other than later documents (Lichchavi and Malla era) mentioning about them.
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.
The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late eighth century, probably due to Tibetan dominance, and was followed by 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.
Main article: Malla (Nepal)
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.
Former royal palace at Basantapur, Kathmandu
Kingdom of Nepal
Main article: Kingdom of Nepal
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.
Hindu temples in Patan, capital of one of the three medieval Newar kingdoms
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.
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. 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. 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.
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, 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. The bill came into force on 28 May 2008.
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".
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, 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, with the government announcing a three-day public holiday from 28 to 30 May. The King was thereafter given 15 days to vacate the Narayanhiti Royal Palace, to re-open it as a public museum.
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. Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) was made the Prime Minister of the coalition government. 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. 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.
Main articles: Geography of Nepal and Geology of Nepal
NASA Landsat-7 Image of Nepal. Nepal shares its boundaries with India and China .
The Annapurna range of the Himalayas
Kali Gandaki Gorge, the deepest gorge on earth.
Marshyangdi Valley – There are many such valleys in the Himalaya created by glacier flows.
Mount Everest, the highest peak on earth, lies in Nepal
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.
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.
The Indian plate continues to move north relative to Asia at the rate of approximately 50 mm (2.0 in) per year. 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.
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.
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.
Main article: Politics of Nepal
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. 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.
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. 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. 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. On 24 May 2012, Nepals's Deputy PM Krishna Sitaula resigned.
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.
Nepal is one of the few countries in Asia to abolish the death penalty 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  and now can get citizenship as a third gender rather than male or female as authorised by Nepal's Supreme Court in 2007.
Singha Durbar, the seat of Nepalese 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 the legislature of Nepal at present. The legislature 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.
Main articles: Regions of Nepal, Zones of Nepal, and Districts of Nepal
Administrative subdivisions of Nepal
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:
Foreign relations and Military
Main articles: Nepalese Armed Forces and Foreign relations of Nepal
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. The Indian Army maintains seven Gorkha regiments consisting of Gorkha troops recruited mostly from Nepal.
However, since the Government of Nepal has been dominated by Socialists and India's by more right-wing parties, India has been remilitarising the "porous" Indo-Nepali border, in order to stifle the flow of Islamist groups. 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. Nepal has assisted in curbing anti-China protests from the Tibetan diaspora.
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 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. The standard-issue battle rifle of the Nepalese army is the Colt M16.
In the new regulations by Nepalese Army, female soldiers have been barred from participating in combat situations and fighting in the frontlines of war. However, they are allowed to be a part of the army in sections like intelligence, headquarters, signals and operations.
Main article: Economy of Nepal
Illam, tea capital of Nepal and one of the tourism hotpots in eastern Nepal. Most of Nepal's economy still dependent on Agriculture.
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.
Nepal's gross domestic product (GDP) for 2012 was estimated at over $17.921 billion (adjusted to Nominal GDP). In 2010, agriculture accounted for 36.1%, services comprise 48.5%, and industry 15.4% of Nepal's GDP. While agriculture and industry is contracting, the contribution by service sector is increasing. Agriculture employs 76% of the workforce, services 18% and manufacturing/craft-based industry 6%. 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. 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.
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. At this measure of poverty the percentage of poor people declined from 53.1% in 2003/2004 to 24.8% in 2010/2011. With a higher poverty line of US$2 dollars per-capita per day, poverty declined by one quarter to 57.3%. However, the income distribution remains grossly uneven. In a recent survey, Nepal has performed extremely well in reducing poverty along with Rwanda and Bangladesh as the percentage of poor dropped to 44.2 percent of the population in 2011 from 64.7 percent in 2006–4.1 percentage points per year, which means that Nepal has made significant improvement in sectors like nutrition, child mortality, electricity, improved flooring and assets. So if the progress of reducing poverty continues in this rate, then it's predicted that Nepal will halve the current poverty rate and eradicate it within the next 20 years.
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. 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.
The rate of unemployment and underemployment approaches half of the working-age population. Thus many Nepali citizens move to other countries in search of work. Top destinations include India, Qatar, the United States, Thailand, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Brunei Darussalam, Australia, and Canada. 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. As of 2010, the total remittance value is worth around $3.5 billion. In 2009 alone, the remittance contributed to 22.9% of the nation's GDP.
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. 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%.
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.
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 fertiliser 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". Nepal's import partners include India (47.5%), the United Arab Emirates (11.2%), China (10.7%), Saudi Arabia (4.9%), and Singapore (4%).
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.
The bulk of the energy need is dominated by fuel wood (68%), agricultural waste (15%), animal dung (8%) and imported fossil fuel (8%). 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.
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. 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. There are 9 major hydropower plants under construction, and additional 27 sites considered for potential development.
Only about 40% of Nepal's population has access to electricity. Even in this scenario there is a great disparity between urban and rural areas. The electrification rate in urban areas is 90%, where the rate for rural areas is only 5%. The position of the power sector remains unsatisfactory because of high tariffs, high system losses, high generation costs, high overheads, over staffing, and lower domestic demand.
Means of transport in mountain area
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; 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. There is a single reliable road route from India to the Kathmandu Valley. More than one-third of its people live at least a two hours walk from the nearest all-season road; 15 out of 75 district headquarters are not connected by road. In addition, some 60% of road network and most rural roads are not operable during the rainy season. 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 makes access to markets, schools, and health clinics a challenge.
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.
According to the Nepal Telecommunication Authority MIS May 2012 report, 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 9.37%, mobile for 64.63%, and other services (LM, GMPCS) for 3.76% of the total penetration rate. 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%.
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. 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. In order to meet future demand, it was estimated that Nepal needed to invest around US$135 million annually in its telecom sector. In 2009, the telecommunication sector alone contributed to 1% of the nation's GDP. As of 30 September 2012, Nepal has 1,828,700 Facebook users.
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. According to 2011 census, the percentage of households possessing radio was 50.82%, television 36.45%, cable TV 19.33%, computer 7.23%. According to the Press Council Nepal, as of 2012 there are 2038 registered newspapers in Nepal, among which 514 are in publication. In 2013, the Reporters Without Borders ranked Nepal at 118th place in the world in terms of press freedom.
Main article: Education in Nepal
Nepalese teacher and schoolchildren in Pokhara
By the mid-20th century, 20 out of Nepal’s only 22 high schools were built, financed, and managed by local communities. Successive governments continued this model, treating education as a partnership with communities. In 1972, however, the government took over the more than 8,000 existing schools. Because of the country’s remoteness and diversity—and weak government capacity—results were disastrous. Teachers regularly abandoned classrooms, the government was not able to provide adequate financing while community resources dried up, and quality plummeted. Finally, in 2001, Members of Parliament passed new laws to transfer schools back to community management. But 30 years of neglect had taken a heavy toll. Literacy rates were only 52%, compared 61% among low-income countries around the world.
Currently the overall literacy rate (for population aged 5 years and above) has increased from 54.1% in 2001 to 65.9% in 2011. Male literacy rate is 75.1% compared to female literacy rate of 57.4%. The highest literacy rate is reported in Kathmandu district (86.3%) and lowest in Rautahat (41.7%).
While the net primary enrollment rate was 74% in 2005; in 2009, that enrollment rate was at 90%. However increasing access to secondary education (grades 9-12) remains a major challenge, as evidenced by the disturbingly low net enrollment rate of 24% at this level. More than half of primary students do not enter secondary schools, and only one-half of them complete secondary schooling. In addition, fewer girls than boys join secondary schools and, among those who do join, fewer complete the 10th grade. Nepal has five universities: Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu University, Pokhara University, Purbanchal University, and Mahendra Sanskrit University. Few newly proposed universities are Lumbini Bouddha University, Mid-Western University, Far-Western University, and Nepal Agriculture and Forestry University.
Main article: Health in Nepal
Public health and health care services in Nepal are provided by both the public and private sector and fares poorly by international standards. According to 2011 census, more than one third (38.17%) of the total households do not have toilet in their houses. Tap/Piped water is the main source of drinking water for 47.78% of the total households. Tube well/hand pump is the main source of drinking water for about 35% of the total households, while spout, uncovered well/kuwa and covered well/kuwa are the main source for 5.74%, 4.71% and 2.45% respectively. Based on 2010 World Health Organisation (WHO) data, Nepal ranked 139 in life expectancy in 2010 with the average Nepalese living to 65.8 years.
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. About 4 out of 1,000 adults aged 15 to 49 had human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and the HIV prevalence rate was 0.5%. Malnutrition also remains very high: about 47% of children under 5 are stunted, 15 percent wasted, and 36 percent underweight, although there has been a declining trend for these rates over the past five years, they remain alarmingly high. In spite of these figures, some improvements in health care have been made, most notable is the significant progress in maternal-child health. Overall Nepal’s HDI for health was 0.77 in 2011, ranking Nepal 126 out of 194 countries, up from 0.444 in 1980.
The Community Forestry Program in Nepal is a participatory environmental governance that encompasses well-defined policies, institutions, and practices. The program addresses the twin goals of forest conservation and poverty reduction. As more than 70 percent of Nepal’s population depends on agriculture for their livelihood, community management of forests has been a critically important intervention. Through legislative developments and operational innovations over three decades, the program has evolved from a protection-oriented, conservation-focused agenda to a much more broad-based strategy for forest use, enterprise development, and livelihood improvement. By April 2009, one-third of Nepal’s population was participating in the program, directly managing more than one-fourth of Nepal’s forest area.
The immediate livelihood benefits derived by rural households bolster strong collective action wherein local communities actively and sustainably manage forest resources. Community forests also became the source of diversified investment capital and raw material for new market-oriented livelihoods. Community forestry shows traits of political, financial, and ecological sustainability, including emergence of a strong legal and regulatory framework, and robust civil society institutions and networks. However, a continuing challenge is to ensure equitable distribution of benefits to women and marginalized groups. Lessons for replication emphasize experiential learning, establishment of a strong civil society network, flexible regulation to encourage diverse institutional modalities, and responsiveness of government and policymakers to a multistakeholder collaborative learning process.