Nepal is a small and land locked country in South Asia. It is situated between the two large and densely populated countries of Asia - China in the North and India in the South, East and West. The shape of Nepal is rectangular and it has an area of 147,181 sq. kms. The length (East to West) is 885 kms. and the width (North to South) is non-uniform, approximately 193 kms. It is situated between longitudes 80° 4'E to 88°12'E and latitudes 26°22'N to 30°27'N, along the Southern slopes of the Himalayas (snow peaks). Although the breadth of the country is narrow, all varieties of climate and topography can be found in this country ranging from the sub-tropical to the alpine. The lowest altitude starts from 60 meters above the sea level in the Southern plain to 8,848 meters in the Northern part. The lowest altitude starts from 60 meters above the sea level in the Southern plain to 8,848 meters in the Northern part. Mt. Everest the highest peak in the world with an altitude of 8,848 meters lies in Nepal. Ecologically, the country is divided into three regions running from East to West, namely; the Tarai (Plain area), the Hills and the Mountains.
The Terai region is a low, flat and fertile land. It covers 23 per cent of the total area of Nepal out of which 40 per cent is under cultivation. It is also known as the "grain basket" of Nepal. Water resources, fertility and its flatness permits the cultivation of variety of crops in this area such as paddy, maize, wheat, sugarcane, vegetables, tobacco, jute and several others. According to the Population Census carried out by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in 1991 46.7 per cent of the total population live in this region. The altitude of the Hilly region varies between 610 meters to 4,877 meters above the sea level. This region covers 43 percent land area of the country out of which only 10 percent is under cultivation. In the higher altitudes of this region the main occupation includes animal grazing, cottage industry and cultivation of high altitudes cereals whereas in the lower altitudes, cultivation of cereal and cash crops is adopted as the main occupation. This region comprises of several attractive pockets, valleys and basins such as Kathmandu, Pokhara, Hetaunda, Dang, Surkhet and several others. These valleys, especially the Kathmandu valley, supports relatively high percentage of the hill population. This region has 45.5 per cent of the total population in 1991.
The altitude of the Mountainous region varies from 4,877 meters to 8,848 meters above the sea level. "Sagarmatha" or the "Mount Everest" (8,848 m.) the highest peak of the world lies in this region. There are more than 250 peaks in this region with more than 6, 000 meters in height and most of them are in the eastern and the central part of the country. In this region the snow line lies above 5, 000 meters and there is no human settlement above this line. This region covers 34 percent area of the country but only 2 percent of the land are suitable for cultivation. Since this region is mostly steep, rugged and cold, it is the most sparsely populated region of the country. The main occupation of the people of this region is livestock raising. 7.8 per cent of the total population live in this region.
Climate and Population:
Various types of climate can be found in Nepal i.e. monsoon subtropical, temperate monsoon and alpine/tundra. The subtropical monsoon climate is found in the Tarai, temperate monsoon in the Hills and alpine in the Mountainous region of Nepal.
The average rainfall of the country in the whole year is about 1,700 MM. But the mean annual rainfall varies from less than 300 MM. in the region near the Tibetan plateau to more than 5,200 m.m. in the Pokhara valley and the southern slopes. Monsoon usually starts in the month of June and ends in September. During summer the maximum temperature in the Tarai is more than 40°c and it is about 28°c in the middle Hills. During winter the minimum temperature in the Tarai is about 7°c, and it is about below the freezing point in the Hills. According to the National Population Census of 1981 the total population of Nepal was 15,022,839 which increased to 18,491,097 in 1991 with an annual growth rate of 2.37 percent. The population for the year 2000 has been estimated to be 22,903,598. 90.8 percent of the total population live in the rural areas and the rest in the urban areas. The literacy rate of the country is 39.6 percent of the total population out of which the male literacy rate is 54.5 percent and the female literacy rate is 25.1 percent (CBS 2000).
The economic growth of the country has not improved markedly over time to over take population growth. As the current population growth is 2.37 percent per annum, the gain achieved by developmental activities has been concealed by the growing population. As estimated by the Central Bureau of Statistics in 1991, 57 percent of the population of working age were economically active and 81 percent of the total population were engaged in agricultural activities. These days contribution of non-agricultural activities is gradually increasing in the GDP. Per capita GDP is estimated to be in the order of US$ 222 for 1998/99 while Per capita income of the country is only US$ 196. The major source of foreign currency is tourism industry. The country has high potentiality of water resources which has not yet been fully utilized.
Language, Culture and Religion:
Nepali is the official language as well as the Lingua Franca of the people of Nepal. Maithali, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Tamang and Newari are other languages which are also spoken as the mother tongue by certain communities. More than 40 caste/ethnic groups are accommodated in the country and there are about 70 spoken languages in Nepal. Nepal is rich in cultural heritage. It is known as the country of non-stop festivals and land of Brave Gurkhas. The country is full of hidden valleys and crystal mountains. Kathmandu city is full of golden Pagodas and Parasols. Kathmandu city is also the home of the Living Goddess (Kumari). Nepal is the only Hindu Kingdom in the world where 86.5 percent of the total population practise Hindu religion. 7.8 percent are Buddhist and the rest are Muslims, Christians and others. Religious tolerance and harmony are the common features in the Nepalese way of life.
Lord Buddha who is well known as the God of peace also "Light of Asia" and tranquility was born in Lumbini, Nepal. Sita, wife of Lord Rama, also was born in Janakpur, Nepal. Sita proved herself as a very loyal and ideal wife of Lord Rama. Both are the Hindu Gods. Thus, Nepal is the homeland of high mountains and high personalities as well.
There are 5 development regions and 75 administrative districts in the Kingdom. The districts are further divided into smaller units i.e. Municipalities and Village Development Committees. At present, there are 3,913 VDCs and 58 Municipalities in the country. A VDC consists of 9 wards and the Municipalities consist from 9 to 35 wards. Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal.
The present political structure of Nepal consists of a multi-party democracy and parliamentary system of government with constitutional monarchy. Today the citizens of Nepal exercise rights of adult franchise. The Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary function and exercise their rights independently. The Legislative or the Parliament consists of the National Assembly ("Rastriya Sabha") and the House of Representatives ("Pratinidhi Sabha"). The National Assembly or the Upper House consists of 60 members. The house of representatives or the Lower House consists of 205 members directly elected from 205 electoral constituencies distributed in 75 districts of the country. The head of the government is the Prime Minister.