Nepal, or Kingdom of Nepal, a country in the Himalayas in southern Asia. It is bounded by India and the Tibetan region of China.
|Nepal in brief|
|Official language: Nepali.|
|Area: 56,827 mi2 (147,181 km2). Greatest distances--east-west, 500 mi (805 km); north-south, 150 mi (241 km).|
|Elevation: Highest—Mount Everest, 29,035 ft (8,850 m) above sea level. Lowest—230 ft (70 m) above sea level.|
|Population: Current estimate—27,416,000; density, 482 per mi2 (186 per km2); distribution, 84 percent rural, 16 percent urban. 2001 census—23,151,423.|
|Chief products: Cattle, corn, rice, oilseeds, wheat.|
|Flag: Nepal's flag has two crimson triangles trimmed in blue, one above the other. The top triangle features the moon and the lower one, the sun, symbols of the long life of Nepal. It is the only nonrectangular country flag.|
|Money: Basic unit—Nepalese rupee. One hundred paise equal one rupee.|
Most of Nepal consists of high, rugged mountain ranges and deep, steep-sided valleys. The towering, snow-covered peaks of the Great Himalayas, more than 20,000 feet (6,000 m) above sea level, mark Nepal's northern frontier. On or near the Tibetan border rise 8 of the world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest, which at 29,035 feet (8,850 m) is the world's highest mountain. Lower ranges of the Himalayas, up to 15,000 feet (4,500 m) high, and fertile river valleys cross central Nepal. The chief one is the Kathmandu Valley. In the south, foothills merge with the Terai, a narrow lowland less than 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level. It is part of the huge Ganges Plain, which lies mainly in India. Nepal is drained primarily by the headstreams of the Ghaghara, Gandak, and Sapt Kosi rivers, which flow to the Ganges River in India.
Nepal's climate varies from extremely cold in the highest mountains to subtropically warm and humid in the eastern Terai. The Kathmandu Valley has warm summers, cool winters, and an annual rainfall of about 56 inches (1,420 mm). Natural vegetation consists chiefly of forests, which cover about a third of the country. Tropical hardwoods predominate in the Terai, mixed oak and pine on the lower mountain slopes, and conifers at higher elevations. The highest mountains are barren. Nepal's forests shelter a variety of wildlife, including rhinoceroses, monkeys, deer, tigers, leopards, wild boars, and elephants.
Nepal's economy is largely agricultural. Most of the people live by subsistence farming. Rice is the staple food, supplemented by wheat, corn, millet, and potatoes. Cash crops, grown mainly in the eastern Terai, include jute, oilseeds, tobacco, and sugarcane. Water buffalo are numerous. They serve as beasts of burden and provide milk and meat. Other farm animals include poultry, sheep, and goats.
Manufacturing is little developed in Nepal. The government operates rice and jute mills and a few factories producing cement and basic consumer goods.
Forests are one of Nepal's most valuable natural resources. Overharvesting, however, has significantly depleted these resources. Although a variety of minerals are known to exist, few are mined. Nepal has enormous potential for generating hydroelectric power, but little is developed.
Except for air travel, which is fairly well developed, transportation in Nepal is poor. Surfaced roads are few but are being extended; railways are limited to short lines linking towns in the Terai with railheads in India. Nepal's foreign trade is primarily with India. Other trade partners include the United States, Germany, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and Japan. Tourism makes up a growing segment of Nepal's economy.
Nepal has many different peoples, most of whose ancestors migrated either from India or Tibet. Those of Indian origin, the Indo-Nepalese, make up the majority of the population. The largest Indo-Nepalese groups are the Pahari, Newar, and Tharu. The Tibeto-Nepalese groups include the Gurung, Magar, Tamang, and Sherpa.
Nepal's population is predominantly rural and heavily concentrated in the central valleys, especially the Kathmandu Valley, and in the eastern Terai. Kathmandu is the capital and largest city. Other sizable cities include Patan, Biratnagar, and Bhadgaon.
Most of the people speak Nepali, the Sanskrit-based national language. Hindi and several Tibeto-Burman languages are also spoken. Some people in urban areas speak English for business dealings.
Hinduism is the official religion. About 90 per cent of the people are Hindus, although their faith incorporates some elements of Buddhism. Smaller religious groups include Buddhists, Muslims, and Christians.
Primary education and secondary education each last five years. Tribhuvan University (founded 1959) is in Kathmandu. About 30 to 40 per cent of the people are literate.
Under the constitution of 1990, Nepal is a constitutional monarchy. Executive powers are held by the king (head of state) and the prime minister (head of government) and his cabinet. The legislature has two houses--- the 60-member National Council and the 205-member House of Representatives. Some Council members are appointed by the king and some are indirectly elected; they serve six-year terms. House members are directly elected for five-year terms. The majority party in the House heads the government.