Excerpted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Nepal is a south Asian country amongst the peaks
and southern slopes of the Himalayas including Mount
Everest, between China, Tibet, Sikkim, India and Kashmir.
Between about 400 and 800AD, Nepal's present capital
Kathmandu was ruled by the Licchavi kingdom.
Archaeological evidence for this period mainly consists
of stonework inscriptions, reckoned on two separate,
The former, Åsaka era has an epoch corresponding to
78AD, whereas the latter Amshuvarm or Manadeva era reckons
Whilst most such inscriptions list the dates and commissioners
of stonework construction, some communicate royal edicts,
religious mantras or historical notes.
It is through the corroboration of local myths with
such evidence that a people prior to the Licchavi have
been identified, known as the Kirata.
Of these people very little is known.
Modern Nepal was created in the latter half of the 18th
century when Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler of the
small principality of Gorkha, formed a unified country
from a number of independent hill states.
The country was frequently called the Gorkha Kingdom,
the source of the term "Gurkha" used for Nepali soldiers.
After 1800, the heirs of Prithvi Narayan Shah proved
unable to maintain firm political control over Nepal.
A period of internal turmoil followed, heightened by
Nepal's defeat in a war with the British from 1814 to
Stability was restored after 1846 when the Rana family
gained power, entrenched itself through hereditary prime
ministers, and reduced the monarch to a figurehead.
The Rana regime, a tightly centralised autocracy, pursued
a policy of isolating Nepal from external influences.
This policy helped Nepal maintain its national independence
during the colonial era, but it also impeded the country's
In 1950, King Tribhuvan, a direct descendant of Prithvi
Narayan Shah, fled his "palace prison" to newly independent
India, touching off an armed revolt against the Rana
This allowed the return of the Shah family to power
and, eventually, the appointment of a non-Rana as prime
A period of quasiconstitutional rule followed, during
which the monarch, assisted by the leaders of fledgling
political parties, governed the country.
During the 1950s, efforts were made to frame a constitution
for Nepal that would establish a representative form
of government, based on a British model.
In early 1959, King Mahendra issued a new constitution,
and the first democratic elections for a national assembly
The Nepali Congress Party, a moderate socialist group,
gained a substantial victory in the election.
Its leader, B.P. Koirala, formed a government and served
as prime minister.
Declaring parliamentary democracy a failure 18 months
later, King Mahendra dismissed the Koirala government
and promulgated a new constitution on December 16, 1962.
The new constitution established a "partyless" system
of panchayats (councils) which King Mahendra considered
to be a democratic form of government closer to Nepalese
As a pyramidal structure progressing from village assemblies
to a Rastriya Panchayat (National Parliament), the panchayat
system enshrined the absolute power of the monarchy
and kept the King as head of state with sole authority
over all governmental institutions, including the Cabinet
(Council of Ministers) and the Parliament.
King Mahendra was succeeded by his 27 year-old son,
King Birendra, in 1972.
Amid student demonstrations and anti-regime activities
in 1979, King Birendra called for a national referendum
to decide on the nature of Nepal's government - either
the continuation of the panchayat system with democratic
reforms or the establishment of a multiparty system.
The referendum was held in May 1980, and the panchayat
system won a narrow victory.
The king carried out the promised reforms, including
selection of the prime minister by the Rastriya Panchayat.
People in rural areas had expected that their interests
would be better represented after the adoption of parliamentary
democracy in 1990.
When promised land reforms failed to appear, people
in some districts started to organise to enact their
own land reform, and to gain some power over their lives
in the face of usurious landlords.
However, this movement was repressed by the Nepali government,
in "Operation Romeo" and "Operation Kilo Sera II" which
took the lives of many of the leading activists of the
As a result, many witnesses to this repression became
February 12, 1996 saw the launch of the Maoist "People's
War" -- an insurgency with the stated goal of overthrowing
the existing monarchic/parliamentary state and establishing
a communist republic, or a Maoist "people's democracy".
(The term, as with "People's War", is in quotes because
the validity of the concept would be challenged by some.)
Led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Pushpa Kamal Dahal
(also known as "Prachanda"), the insurgency began in
five districts in Nepal: Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Gorkha,
The Maoists have declared the existence of a provisional
"people's government" at the district level in several
In June 2001 Crown Prince Dipendra went on a shooting-spree
assassinating 11 members of the royal family including
King Birendra and Queen Aiswary before shooting himself.
Due to his survival he temporarily became king before
dying of his wounds resulting in Prince Gyanendra (Birendra's
brother) inheriting the throne.
Meanwhile, the Maoist rebellion escalated, and in October
2002 the king temporarily deposed the government and
took complete control of it.
A week later he reappointed another government, but
the country is still very unstable because of the civil
war with the Maoists, the various political factions,
the king's attempts to take more control of the government
and worries about the competence of Gyanendra's son
and heir, Prince Paras.
Area: 140,800 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Arkansas.
Land boundaries: China 1,236 km, India 1,690
Climate: varies from cool summers and severe
winters in north to subtropical summers and mild winters
Terrain: Terai or flat river plain of the Ganges
in south, central hill region, rugged Himalayas in north.
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Kanchan Kalan
highest point: Mount Everest 8,850 m (1999 est.), the
highest mountain on Earth.
Natural resources: quartz, water, timber, hydropower,
scenic beauty, small deposits of lignite, copper, cobalt,
Land use: arable land: 17%, permanent crops:
0%, permanent pastures: 15%, forests and woodland: 42%,
other: 26% (1993 est.).
Irrigated land: 8,500 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: severe thunderstorms, flooding, landslides,
drought, and famine depending on the timing, intensity,
and duration of the summer monsoons.
Environment - current issues: deforestation (overuse
of wood for fuel and lack of alternatives); contaminated
water (with human and animal wastes, agricultural runoff,
and industrial effluents); wildlife conservation; vehicular
Geography - note: landlocked; strategic location between
China and India; contains eight of world's 10 highest
Economy - overview:
Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries
in the world with nearly half of its population living
below the poverty line (with, as of 2001, a per capita
income of just over $240 U.S.).
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing
a livelihood for over 80% of the population and accounting
for 41% of GDP.
Industrial activity mainly involves the processing of
agricultural produce including jute, sugarcane, tobacco,
Production of textiles and carpets has expanded recently
and accounted for about 80% of foreign exchange earnings
in the past three years.
Agricultural production is growing by about 5% on average
as compared with annual population growth of 2.3%.
Since May 1991, the government has been moving forward
with economic reforms, particularly those that encourage
trade and foreign investment, e.g., by reducing business
licenses and registration requirements in order to simplify
The government has also been cutting expenditures by
reducing subsidies, privatising state industries, and
laying off civil servants.
More recently, however, political instability - five
different governments over the past few years - has
hampered Kathmandu's ability to forge consensus to implement
key economic reforms.
Nepal has considerable scope for accelerating economic
growth by exploiting its potential in hydropower and
tourism, areas of recent foreign investment interest.
Prospects for foreign trade or investment in other sectors
will remain poor, however, because of the small size
of the economy, its technological backwardness, its
remoteness, its landlocked geographic location, and
its susceptibility to natural disaster.
The international community's role of funding more than
60% of Nepal's development budget and more than 28%
of total budgetary expenditures will likely continue
as a major ingredient of growth.
An isolated, agrarian society until the mid-20th century,
Nepal entered the modern era in 1951 without schools,
hospitals, roads, telecommunications, electric power,
industry, or civil service.
The country has, however, made progress toward sustainable
economic growth since the 1950s and is committed to
a program of economic liberalization.
Nepal will complete its ninth economic development plan
in 2002; its currency has been made convertible, and
17 state enterprises have been privatised.
Foreign aid accounts for more than half of the development
Government priorities over the years have been the development
of transportation and communication facilities, agriculture,
Since 1975, improved government administration and rural
development efforts have been emphasised.
Agriculture remains Nepal's principal economic activity,
employing 80% of the population and providing 37% of
Only about 20% of the total area is cultivable; another
33% is forested; most of the rest is mountainous.
Rice and wheat are the main food crops.
The lowland Terai region produces an agricultural surplus,
part of which supplies the food-deficient hill areas.
Economic development in social services and infrastructure
has made progress.
A countrywide primary education system is under development,
and Tribhuvan University has several campuses.
Although eradication efforts continue, malaria had been
controlled in the fertile but previously uninhabitable
Terai region in the south.
Kathmandu is linked to India and nearby hill regions
by road and an expanding highway network.
Major towns are connected to the capital by telephone
and domestic air services.
The export-oriented carpet and garment industries have
grown rapidly in recent years and together now account
for approximately 70% of merchandise exports.
Nepal's merchandise trade balance has improved somewhat
in recent years with the growth of the carpet and garment
In FY 2000-01 exports posted a greater increase (14%)
than imports (4.5%), helping bring the trade deficit
down by 4% from the previous year to $749 million.
Trade with India rose rapidly after conclusion of the
1996 bilateral trade treaty between the two countries,
and now accounts for 43% of all exports.
Indian efforts to revise the treaty, which comes up
for a 5-year review in December 2001, could dampen Nepal's
The annual monsoon rain, or lack of it, strongly influences
From 1996 to 1999, real GDP growth averaged less than
The growth rate recovered in 1999, rising to 6% before
slipping slightly in 2001 to 5.5%.
Strong export performance, including earnings from tourism,
and external aid have helped improve the overall balance-of-payments
situation and increase international reserves.
Nepal receives substantial amounts of external assistance
from India, the People's Republic of China, the United
Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Germany, and the
Several multilateral organisations, such as the World
Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and the UN Development
Program also provide assistance.
In June 1998, Nepal submitted its memorandum on a foreign
trade regime to the World Trade Organisation and in
May 2000 began direct negotiations on its accession.
Progress has been made in exploiting Nepal's major economic
resources - tourism and hydroelectricity.
With eight of the world's 10 highest mountain peaks
- including Mount Everest at 8,800 m (29,000 ft)- hiking,
mountain climbing, and other tourism is growing.
Swift rivers flowing south through the Himalayas have
massive hydroelectricity potential to service domestic
needs and the growing demand from India.
The two countries have joint irrigation-hydroelectric
projects on the Kosi, Trisuli, and Gandaki Rivers.
Several other hydroelectric projects, at Kulekhani and
Marsyangdi, were completed in the mid to late 1980s.
In the early 1990s, one large public sector project
and a number of private projects were planned; some
have been completed.
The most significant private sector financed hydroelectric
projects currently in operation are the Khimti Khola
(60 MW) and the Bhote Koshi (36 MW).
The environmental impact of Nepal's hydroelectric projects
has been limited by the fact that most are "run-of-river"
with only one storage project undertaken to date.
The largest under active consideration is the private
sector West Seti (750 MW) storage project which is dedicated
Negotiations with India for a power purchase agreement
have been underway for several years, but agreement
on pricing and capital financing remains a problem.
Currently demand for electricity is increasing at 8%-10%
Population pressure on natural resources is increasing.
Overpopulation is already straining the "carrying capacity"
of the middle hill areas, particularly the Kathmandu
Valley, resulting in the depletion of forest cover for
crops, fuel, and fodder and contributing to erosion
Although steep mountain terrain makes exploitation difficult,
mineral surveys have found small deposits of limestone,
magnesite, zinc, copper, iron, mica, lead, and cobalt.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $27.4 billion (1999 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 3.4% (1999 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1,100 (1999
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11.8% (FY98/99 est.)
Labor force: 10 million (1996 est.) note: severe lack
of skilled labour.
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 81%, services
16%, industry 3%.
Unemployment rate: NA%; substantial underemployment
Budget: revenues: $536 million. Expenditures: $818 million,
including capital expenditures of $NA (FY96/97 est.)
Industries: tourism, carpet, textile; small rice, jute,
sugar, and oilseed mills; cigarette; cement and brick
Exports: $485 million (f.o.b., 1998), but does not include
unrecorded border trade with India.
Exports - commodities: carpets, clothing, leather goods,
jute goods, grain.
Imports: $1.2 billion (f.o.b., 1998).
Imports - commodities: gold, machinery and equipment,
petroleum products, fertiliser.
Imports - partners: India 31%, mainland China/Hong Kong
16%, Singapore 14% (FY97/98).
Debt - external: $2.4 billion (1997).
Economic aid - recipient: $411 million (FY97/98).
Currency: 1 Nepalese rupee (NR) = 100 paisa.
Exchange rates: Nepalese rupees (NRs) per US$1 - 68.784
Nepal is a constitutional monarchy with a democratic,
parliamentary form of government that is multiethnic,
multilingual, Hindu, and retains the king in the role
of head of state.
The former "partyless" panchayat system of government
was abolished in April 1990.
The 1994 election defeat of the Nepali Congress Party
by the UML made Nepal the world's first communist monarchy,
with Man Mohan Adhikary prime minister.
In mid-1994, the Parliament was dissolved due to dissension
within the Nepali Congress Party.
The subsequent general election, held November 15, 1994,
gave no party a majority and led to several years of
unstable coalition governments.
As of the May 1999 general elections, the Nepali Congress
Party once again heads a majority government.
There have been three Nepali Congress Party Prime Ministers
since the 1999 elections.
In February 1996, the leaders of the Maoist United People's
Front began a violent insurgency, waged through killings,
torture, bombings, kidnappings, extortion, and intimidation
against civilians, police, and public officials in more
than 50 of the country's 75 districts.
About 1,800 police, civilians, and insurgents have been
killed in the conflict since 1996.
In July 2001 Prime Minister Deuba announced a cease-fire,
which the Maoists pledged to observe, as part of a government
effort to seek a negotiated solution to the conflict.
Although Maoist-instigated intimidation and extortion
continue, the killings have largely subsided since the
cease-fire was announced.
The government and Maoists held talks in August and
Political parties agreed in 1991 that the monarchy would
remain to enhance political stability and provide an
important symbol of national identity for the culturally
diverse Nepali people.
The King exercises limited powers, including the right
to declare a state of emergency in the event of war
or armed revolt, with the advice and consent of the
Council of Ministers and the Prime Minister.
The King's declaration of a state of emergency must
be approved by a two-thirds majority of the lower house
of the Parliament.
In general, however, the King is largely disassociated
from direct involvement in day-to-day government activities.
On June 1, 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra shot and killed
his father, King Birendra; his mother, Queen Aishwarya;
his brother; his sister, his father's younger brother,
Prince Dhirendra; and several aunts, before turning
the gun on himself.
After his death two days later, the late King's surviving
brother Gyanendra was proclaimed king.
Nepal's judiciary is legally separate from the executive
and legislative branches and has increasingly shown
the will to be independent of political influence.
The judiciary has the right of judicial review under
The king appoints the chief justice and all other judges
to the supreme, appellate, and district courts upon
the recommendation of the Judicial Council.
All lower court decisions, including acquittals, are
subject to appeal.
The Supreme Court is the court of last appeal.
The king may grant pardons and may suspend, commute,
or remit any sentence by any court.
There are hundreds of small privately owned newspapers
in addition to one English and one Nepali-language state-owned
Views expressed since the 1990 move to democracy are
varied and vigorous.
As of September 2001, there were 19
private radio stations, a government radio
station, and a government-owned television station.
The law allows the issuance of private television broadcasting
Although one such license was issued in 1994, the recipient
failed to begin broadcasting within the 6-year window.
There are nearly 200 cable television operators nation-wide,
and satellite dishes to receive television broadcasts
The law strictly forbids the media to criticise or satirise
the king or any member of the royal family.
Administrative divisions: 14 zones.
Independence: 1768 (unified by Prithvi Narayan Shah)
National holiday: Birthday of His Majesty the King,
28 December (1945).
Constitution: 9 November 1990
Legal system: based on Hindu legal concepts and English
common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal.
Executive branch: chief of state: King Gyanendra Bir
Bikram Shah (succeeded to the throne 4 June 2001 following
the death of his nephew, King Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah).
Head of government: Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa
(since 4 June 2003) cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the
monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister.
Legislative branch: Nepal's Parliament was dissolved
on 22 May 2002 and elections are scheduled for 13 November
Bicameral Parliament consists of the National Council
(60 seats; 35 appointed by the House of Representatives,
10 by the king, and 15 elected by an electoral college;
one-third of the members elected every two years to
serve six-year terms) and the House of Representatives
(205 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve
Perched on the southern slopes of the Himalayan Mountains,
the Kingdom of Nepal is as ethnically diverse as its
terrain of fertile plains, broad valleys, and the highest
mountain peaks in the world.
The Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations
from India, Tibet, and Central Asia.
Among the earliest inhabitants were the Newars Kathmandu
Valley and aboriginal Tharus in the southern Terai region.
The ancestors of the Brahman and Chetri caste groups
came from India, while other ethnic groups trace their
origins to Central Asia and Tibet, including the Gurungs
and Magars in the west, Rais and Limbus in the east,
and Sherpas and Bhotias in the north.
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-Aryan people of northern India.
People of Indo-Aryan and Mongoloid stock live in the
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 5% of the population.
Religion is important in Nepal; Kathmandu Valley has
more than 2,700 religious shrines alone.
Nepal is about 86% Hindu.
The constitution describes the country as a "Hindu Kingdom,"
although it does not establish Hinduism as the state
Buddhists account for about 8% of the population.
Buddhist and Hindu shrines and festivals are respected
and celebrated by all.
Nepal also has small Muslim and Christian minorities.
Certain animistic practices of old indigenous religions
Nepali is the official language, although dozens of
different languages are spoken throughout the country.
Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali is related to the Indian
language, Hindi, and is spoken by about 90% of the population
as a first or second language.
Many Nepalese in government and business also speak
Ethnic groups: Newars, Indians, Tibetans, Gurungs,
Magars, Tamangs, Bhotias, Rais, Limbus, Sherpas.
Literacy: total population: 45.2%
People - note: refugee issue over the presence in Nepal
of approximately 96,500 Bhutanese refugees, 90% of whom
are in seven United Nations Office of the High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) camps.
This information was updated & correct in December
2003 E. & O.E.
All text is available under the terms of the GNU
Free Documentation License
Copyrights for details).
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