Nepal


Nepal
/neuh pawl", -pahl", -pal", nay-/, n.
a constitutional monarchy in the Himalayas between N India and Tibet. 22,641,061; ab. 54,000 sq. mi. (140,000 sq. km). Cap.: Katmandu.

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Nepal

Introduction Nepal
Background: In 1951, the Nepalese monarch ended the century-old system of rule by hereditary premiers and instituted a cabinet system of government. Reforms in 1990 established a multiparty democracy within the framework of a constitutional monarchy. The refugee issue of some 100,000 Bhutanese in Nepal remains unresolved; 90% of these displaced persons are housed in seven United Nations Offices of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps. Geography Nepal -
Location: Southern Asia, between China and India
Geographic coordinates: 28 00 N, 84 00 E
Map references: Asia
Area: total: 140,800 sq km water: 4,000 sq km land: 136,800 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Arkansas
Land boundaries: total: 2,926 km border countries: China 1,236 km, India 1,690 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: varies from cool summers and severe winters in north to subtropical summers and mild winters in south
Terrain: Terai or flat river plain of the Ganges in south, central hill region, rugged Himalayas in north
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Kanchan Kalan 70 m highest point: Mount Everest 8,850 m (1999 est.)
Natural resources: quartz, water, timber, hydropower, scenic beauty, small deposits of lignite, copper, cobalt, iron ore
Land use: arable land: 20.27% permanent crops: 0.49% other: 79.24% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 11,350 sq km (1998 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 emissions Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note: landlocked; strategic location between China and India; contains eight of world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest - the world's tallest - on the border with China People Nepal
Population: 25,873,917 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 40% (male 5,346,422; female 5,007,416) 15-64 years: 56.4% (male 7,476,202; female 7,125,471) 65 years and over: 3.6% (male 453,263; female 465,143) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.29% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 32.94 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 10.03 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/ female total population: 1.05 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 72.36 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 58.61 years female: 58.2 years (2002 est.) male: 59.01 years
Total fertility rate: 4.48 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.29% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 34,000 (1999 est.)
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 2,500 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Nepalese (singular and plural) adjective: Nepalese
Ethnic groups: Brahman, Chetri, Newar, Gurung, Magar, Tamang, Rai, Limbu, Sherpa, Tharu, and others (1995)
Religions: Hinduism 86.2%, Buddhism 7.8%, Islam 3.8%, other 2.2% note: only official Hindu state in the world (1995)
Languages: Nepali (official; spoken by 90% of the population), about a dozen other languages and about 30 major dialects; note - many in government and business also speak English (1995)
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 27.5% male: 40.9% female: 14% (1995 est.) Government Nepal
Country name: conventional long form: Kingdom of Nepal conventional short form: Nepal
Government type: parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
Capital: Kathmandu Administrative divisions: 14 zones (anchal, singular and plural); Bagmati, Bheri, Dhawalagiri, Gandaki, Janakpur, Karnali, Kosi, Lumbini, Mahakali, Mechi, Narayani, Rapti, Sagarmatha, Seti
Independence: 1768 (unified by Prithvi Narayan Shah)
National holiday: Birthday of King GYANENDRA, 7 July (1946)
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 Sher Bahadur DEUBA (since 22 July 2001) cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister elections: none; the monarch is hereditary; following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party or leader of a majority coalition is usually appointed prime minister by the monarch note: King BIRENDRA Bir Bikram Shah Dev died in a bloody shooting at the royal palace on 1 June 2001 that also claimed the lives of most of the royal family; King BIRENDRA's son, Crown Price DIPENDRA, is believed to have been responsible for the shootings before fatally wounding himself; immediately following the shootings and while still clinging to life, DIPENDRA was crowned king; he died three days later and was succeeded by his uncle
Legislative branch: note: Nepal's Parliament was dissolved on 22 May 2002 and elections are scheduled for 13 November 2002 : 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 five-year terms) election results: House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NC 37.3%, CPN/UML 31.6%, NDP 10.4%, NSP 3.2%, Rastriya Jana Morcha 1.4%, Samyukta Janmorcha Nepal 0.8%, NWPP 0.5%, others 14.8%; seats by party - NC 113, CPN/UML 69, NDP 11, NSP 5, Rastriya Jana Morcha 5, Samyukta Janmorcha Nepal 1, NWPP 1 elections: House of Representatives - last held 3 and 17 May 1999 (next to be held 13 November 2002)
Judicial branch: Supreme Court or Sarbochha Adalat (chief justice is appointed by the monarch on recommendation of the Constitutional Council; the other judges are appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the Judicial Council) Political parties and leaders: Communist Party of Nepal/United Marxist-Leninist or CPN/UML [Madhav Kumar NEPAL, general secretary]; National Democratic Party or NDP (also called Rastriya Prajantra Party or RPP) [Surya Bahadur THAPA, chairman]; National People's Front (Rastriya Jana Morcha) [Chitra Bahadur, chairman]; Nepal Sadbhavana (Goodwill) Party or NSP [Bhadri Prasad MANDAL, acting party president]; Nepal Workers and Peasants Party or NWPP [Narayan Man BIJUKCHHE, party chair]; Nepali Congress or NC [Girija Prasad KOIRALA, party president, Sushil KOIRALA, general secretary]; Samyukta Janmorcha Nepal [Lila Mani POKHAREL, general secretary] Political pressure groups and Maoist guerrilla-based insurgency;
leaders: numerous small, left-leaning student groups in the capital; several small, radical Nepalese antimonarchist groups International organization AsDB, CCC, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-77,
participation: IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, MONUC, NAM, OPCW, SAARC, UN, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMEE, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNMOT, UNTAET, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO (observer) Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador- designate Jai Pratap RANA chancery: 2131 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008 consulate(s) general: New York FAX: [1] (202) 667-5534 telephone: [1] (202) 667-4550 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Michael
US: E. MALINOWSKI (since December 2001) embassy: Panipokhari, Kathmandu mailing address: use embassy street address telephone: [977] (1) 411179 FAX: [977] (1) 419963
Flag description: red with a blue border around the unique shape of two overlapping right triangles; the smaller, upper triangle bears a white stylized moon and the larger, lower triangle bears a white 12-pointed sun Economy Nepal -
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. 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, and grain. Textile and carpet production, accounteing for about 80% of foreign exchange earnings in recent years, contracted significantly in 2001 due to the overall slowdown in the world economy and pressures by Maoist insurgents on factory owners and workers. Security concerns in the wake of Maoist activity, the June massacre of many members of the royal family, and the September 11 terrorist attacks in the US led to a decrease in tourism, another key source of foreign exchange. 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 to simplify investment procedures. The government has also been cutting expenditures by reducing subsidies, privatizing 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.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $35.6 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 2.6% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $1,400 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 41% industry: 22% services: 37% (2000 est.) Population below poverty line: 42% (FY95/96 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 3.2%
percentage share: highest 10%: 29.8% (1995-96) Distribution of family income - Gini 36.7 (1995-96)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.1% (FY00/01 est.)
Labor force: 10 million (1996 est.) note: severe lack of skilled labor Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 81%, services 16%, industry 3%
Unemployment rate: 47% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $665 million expenditures: $1.1 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY99/00 est.)
Industries: tourism, carpet, textile; small rice, jute, sugar, and oilseed mills; cigarette; cement and brick production Industrial production growth rate: 8.7% (FY99/00) Electricity - production: 1.454 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 9.56% hydro: 90.44% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 1.431 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 95 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 174 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, root crops; milk, water buffalo meat
Exports: $757 million (f.o.b., FY00/01 est.), but does not include unrecorded border trade with India
Exports - commodities: carpets, clothing, leather goods, jute goods, grain
Exports - partners: India 48%, US 26%, Germany 11% (FY00/01)
Imports: $1.6 billion (f.o.b., FY00/01 est.)
Imports - commodities: gold, machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer
Imports - partners: India 39%, Singapore 10%, China/Hong Kong 9%, (FY00/01)
Debt - external: $2.55 billion (FY00/01) Economic aid - recipient: $424 million (FY00/01)
Currency: Nepalese rupee (NPR)
Currency code: NPR
Exchange rates: Nepalese rupees per US dollar - 76.675 (January 2002), 74.961 (2001), 71.094 (2000), 68.239 (1999), 65.976 (1998), 58.010 (1997)
Fiscal year: 16 July - 15 July Communications Nepal Telephones - main lines in use: 236,816 (January 2000) Telephones - mobile cellular: NA
Telephone system: general assessment: poor telephone and telegraph service; fair radiotelephone communication service and mobile cellular telephone network domestic: NA international: radiotelephone communications; microwave landline to India; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean) Radio broadcast stations: AM 6, FM 5, shortwave 1 (January 2000)
Radios: 840,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 1 (plus 9 repeaters) (1998)
Televisions: 130,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .np Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 6 (2000)
Internet users: 50,000 (2001) Transportation Nepal
Railways: total: 59 km narrow gauge: 59 km 0.762-m gauge note: all in Kosi close to Indian border (2001)
Highways: total: 13,223 km paved: 4,073 km unpaved: 9,150 km (April 1999)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: none
Airports: 45 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 8 over 3,047 m: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 6 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 37 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 7 under 914 m: 29 (2001) Military Nepal
Military branches: Royal Nepalese Army (includes Royal Nepalese Army Air Service), Nepalese Police Force Military manpower - military age: 17 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 6,484,343 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 3,369,454 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching males: 292,589 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $51.5 million (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 1% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Nepal Disputes - international: formed Joint Border committee with India in 2001 to resolve 53 disputed sections of boundary covering an area of 720 sq km; approximately 100,000 Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal, 90% of whom reside in seven UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees camps, place decades- long strains on Nepal
Illicit drugs: illicit producer of cannabis for the domestic and international drug markets; transit point for opiates from Southeast Asia to the West

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officially Kingdom of Nepal

Country, southern Asia.

Area: 56,827 sq mi (147,181 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 23,692,000. Capital: Kathmandu. Most of the people are Nepalese of Indo-Aryan ancestry; there is a significant minority of Tibeto-Nepalese peoples. Languages: Nepali (official), Newari. Religion: Hinduism (official), Buddhism (small minority). Currency: Nepalese rupee. Nepal contains some of the most rugged mountainous terrain in the world. The Great Himalayas, including Mount Everest, are in its central and northern parts. As a result of its years of geographic and self-imposed isolation, it is one of the least-developed countries of the world. Its market economy is mostly based on agriculture; it is a major producer of medicinal herbs, which grow on the slopes of the Himalayas. Nepal is a constitutional monarchy with a bicameral parliament; its chief of state is the king, and the head of government is the prime minister. The region developed under early Buddhist influence, and dynastic rule dates from about the 4th century AD. It was formed into a single kingdom in 1769 and fought border wars with China, Tibet, and British India in the 18th–19th centuries. Its independence was recognized by Britain in 1923. A new constitution in 1990 restricted royal authority, stated basic human and civil rights, and accepted a democratically elected parliamentary government. Nepal signed trade agreements with India in 1997. The country was stunned in 2001 when the crown prince killed most members of the royal family, including himself.

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▪ 2009

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 28,757,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala (interim head of state) and, from July 23, President Ram Baran Yadav
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Girija Prasad Koirala and, from August 18, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known as Prachanda)

      Nepal held an internationally supervised election for its new 601-member Constituent Assembly (CA) on April 10, 2008, with the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) emerging as the largest single party, securing 220 seats. Of 54 parties that contested the election, 25 secured enough votes to be represented in the CA. At its first meeting, on May 28, the CA dissolved the 240-year-old monarchy. On July 21 the CA elected Ram Baran Yadav the first president of Nepal. Pushpa Kamal Dahal—popularly known as Prachanda —of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was elected prime minister.

      In other news, Tibetan refugees in Nepal staged multiple anti-Chinese demonstrations that provoked sharp responses from China. Prachanda, meanwhile, attended the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games in Beijing on August 24. He paid official visits to India and to the United Nations in September. Violence in Nepal's southern region and disputes over the integration of Maoist combatants into the national army prompted a visit by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on October 31.

      In early December the United Nations announced at a news conference in Kathmandu that Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal had agreed to a date whereby nearly 3,000 Maoist child soldiers would be released from military camps. In coordination with the UN, the combatants would be discharged at the end of February 2009.

      A breach in the Kosi River barrage in August displaced nearly 100,000 people in eastern Nepal (and more than 2,000,000 people in adjacent Bihar state, India). The heavy rainfall in western Nepal also affected some 160,000 people. On October 8 a small aircraft crashed in Lukla, killing 18 passengers.

Keshab Poudel

▪ 2008

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 28,196,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and, from January 15, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala (interim head of state)
Head of government:
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala

      Despite the government's postponement of elections for the Constituent Assembly that had been scheduled for Nov. 22, 2007, Nepal witnessed many historic political changes during the year. With the promulgation of an interim constitution on January 15, Nepal turned from a Hindu kingdom into a secular state, with the role of the monarchy suspended. Once elected and seated, the Constituent Assembly would have the right to determine the future status of the monarchy. Property acquired by King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev while in power was nationalized, and Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala (Koirala, Girija Prasad ) was named interim head of the state.

      With the signing of a comprehensive peace accord between the government and Maoist rebels in November 2006, Nepal's 11-year-long Maoist insurgency had come to an end. In January the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) was established. Its mandate was to assist in the conduct of free and fair elections for the Constituent Assembly, to support the peace process, and to monitor both Maoist and Nepal Army soldiers and their weapons. UNMIN was originally established for 12 months, but the government later agreed to extend its tenure for another 6 months. Although the Maoists joined the interim coalition government upon its formation in April, they left in September after their demands for the monarchy to be immediately abolished were refused. In December, however, the legislature agreed to the demands and voted to end the monarchy, and the Maoists rejoined the government.

      Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter visited Nepal in June and November to urge political leaders to hold the elections. Prime Minister Koirala reportedly told Carter that he was committed to holding elections by April 2008.

Keshab Poudel

▪ 2007

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 27,678,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Head of government:
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala from April 30

 Nepal witnessed a historic political change in 2006. On November 8 the Maoist rebels who had waged a decadelong bloody insurgency, agreed to confine their fighters to camps, lock up their weapons (under the supervision of the UN) by November 21, form an interim government, and hold elections for a Constituent Assembly by June 2007. On November 21 the government and the Maoists signed a comprehensive peace accord, and on November 28 they signed an arms accord. The country was still reeling, however, from the historic shift that occurred when King Gyanendra was forced to relinquish power following 19 days (April 6–24) of political agitation by Maoists and the seven-party opposition; during the demonstrations 23 persons lost their lives, and 5,000 were injured. The House of Representatives (HoR), which had been dissolved in May 2002, was restored, and Nepali Congress Party Pres. Girija Prasad Koirala was named prime minister. Along with the domestic protesters, the international community also exerted pressure on the king to hand over power to the people. The United States, India, China, Japan, and the European Union lent their support to the people's movement.

      On May 18 the HoR—which declared itself a sovereign and supreme body—brought the army under civilian control, dissolved the royal privy council, and declared Nepal a secular state, removing its identity as a Hindu state. It also drastically cut the power and privileges of the king, including his right to decide the heir to the throne.

      In the process of ending the bloody insurgency, the government and the Maoists signed a 25-point cease-fire code of conduct and formed a 31-member national committee to monitor its observance. They also requested assistance from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in monitoring human rights violations. Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal (aka Comrade Prachanda) and his second in command, Baburam Bhattarai, held a high-level meeting on June 16 with Prime Minister Koirala and leaders of the opposition. An eight-point deal was announced that called for the creation of a committee to prepare an interim constitution that would replace the existing constitution that was formed in 1990.

      The economic sector had a dismal performance; economic growth for 2006 was 1.9%. For the first time in two decades, the number of one-horned rhinoceroses in protected areas of Nepal declined drastically—from 600 in 2002 to 350 in 2006—as a result of poaching.

Keshab Poudel

▪ 2006

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 27,133,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Head of government:
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba until February 1

      Nepal's 15-year democratic exercise—which was marked by deep political instability—came to an end on Feb. 1, 2005, after King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev dismissed the government of Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, who was later imprisoned on corruption charges; the claims were leveled by a highly controversial anticorruption body formed by the king. Meanwhile, the king took over absolute executive power, imposed a three-month state of emergency, and suspended all fundamental rights, including press freedom. The U.S., the U.K., and India suspended military aid to Nepal. Some European countries and international human rights groups, however, compelled the king to withdraw the state of emergency and restore civil rights. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights opened an office in Nepal to monitor the situation. Amid protests, the king promised in September to hold elections in 2006. Meanwhile, in Beijing the Chinese government welcomed Pyar Jung Thapa, the chief of the Royal Nepalese Army, and announced on October 25 that it would provide $1 million in weapons to arm the Royal Nepalese Army; this marked the first time that China had provided military aid to Nepal. In January 2005 Nepal closed the Dalai Lama's office, which had been operating there for 45 years. The government ratified the Kyoto Protocol in September.

      On September 3 the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) announced a three-month unilateral cease-fire—the third cease-fire in the nine-year “people's war,” which had killed more than 12,000 people.

      On October 9 the government announced a controversial media ordinance that imposed restrictions on free press, curtailed freedom of speech, and decreed punishment of $3,000 in fines and two years' imprisonment for criticism of the government or the royal family. Later that month King Gyanendra announced that elections for the House of Representatives would be held by April 2007.

      As a result of the expiration on January 1 of the Multi-Fiber Agreement, which set textile quotas, the country's export of garments (the number one export) was reduced by 40%; the livelihood of tens of thousands of people, particularly women and the poor, depended upon that industry. The escalation in the violent insurgency in Nepal caused tremendous loss in protected conservation areas because security forces that had been used against poaching were needed elsewhere; the population of the rare one-horned rhinos dwindled alarmingly from 600 (five years earlier) to fewer than 400.

Keshab Poudel

▪ 2005

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 24,692,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Head of government:
Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa and, from June 3, Sher Bahadur Deuba

      Kathmandu experienced unprecedented street violence in 2004 following the killing of 12 Nepalese workers in Iraq by a terrorist group. The protesters tried to set fire to the two mosques in the capital on September 1. Homegrown violence escalated in rural areas as Maoist forces attacked two district police headquarters in April, and the guerrillas began targeting the economy by calling for strikes and plant closures. As of September 30, more than 10,500 people had died in the violence.

      In the capital, political chaos and uncertainty continued. King Gyanendra appointed Sher Bahadur Deuba prime minister on June 2. Deuba was instructed to hold elections by April 2005 in conditions of peace, and he invited the Maoists to peace negotiations. The Maoists rejected the invitation and launched deadly new attacks near year's end. Government forces responded, killing 22 guerrillas.

      A meeting of Nepal's international donors in May agreed to increase foreign assistance to $500 million a year. On April 23 Nepal became the first least-developed country to be granted full membership in the World Trade Organization.

      Two Nepalese set world records on Mt. Everest in 2004. Pemba Dorji Sherpa ascended in a record 8 hr 10 min in May, while Appa Sherpa scaled Everest for a record 14th time.

Keshab Poudel

▪ 2004

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 24,172,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Lokendra Bahadur Chand and, from June 5, Surya Bahadur Thapa

      Political chaos continued to be the norm in Nepal through September 2003, owing to the division between the major contenders for power—King Gyanendra and the cabinet he appointed, headed by Surya Bahadur Thapa; the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist); and the coalition of the five major political parties, including the Nepali Congress Party and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist). Negotiations between these different factions were held, but the most important occurred on August 17–27 between the Maoists and the government at a conference in Nepalganj. The talks ended without any progress made, primarily because of the government's refusal to accept the Maoists' demand for the election of a new constituent assembly. The Maoists ended the cease-fire in late August, and deadly clashes with police intensified in October. The five-party coalition decided on September 1 to “postpone” the political movement that it had slated to begin on that date.

      Nepal's relations with its two neighbours, India and China, were not a critical issue in 2003. Talks with India were held in August about the construction by India of bunds (embankments) on waterways along the border; the action had led to flooding in some Nepali lands in the area. The dispute remained unresolved, however. In September the U.S., Indian, Chinese, and Pakistani ambassadors met separately with Nepali political party leaders and urged them “to build a consensus with the king to settle the current political crisis.”

Leo E. Rose

▪ 2003

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 23,692,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Sher Bahadur Deuba and, from October 11, Lokendra Bahadur Chand

      Political crises at both the central and the regional level were the norm in Nepal throughout most of 2002. Conflicts within and between major political parties, including the ruling Nepali Congress Party, were critical. Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba decided in September to dissolve the parliament and to postpone the elections scheduled for November. The negative response from the major political factions led King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (see Biographies (Gyanendra )) to use his constitutional powers to dismiss the Deuba government. Party leaders then recommended to the king that he appoint a multiparty government, but instead Gyanendra decided to install a government headed by Lokendra Bahadur Chand, which took office in early November without obtaining a support vote from the parliament. In December Chand stated that a parliamentary election “could be held” within six months, but no arrangements had been made by year's end.

      The Nepalese army had not yet demonstrated the capacity to crush the Maoist insurrection in the country's western hill area, but it had been able to confine the insurgents. This conflict promised to continue to divide the country politically and to undermine most economic and social development programs. India, China, and the U.S. supported the central government and continued to provide substantial economic and military aid.

Leo E. Rose

▪ 2002

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 25,284,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
Kings Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and, from June 4, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Girija Prasad Koirala and, from July 21, Sher Bahadur Deuba

      Nepal seemed on the brink of political chaos and even disintegration in mid-2001. The assassination of King Birendra (see Obituaries (Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev )) and eight other members of the royal family by Crown Prince Dipendra threatened the traditional monarchical system. Divisions within the ruling Nepali Congress Party led to changes in the prime ministership in July, and the Maoist insurgency in the western hill area posed a major challenge to the democratic parliamentary system of government. By October King Gyanendra, the late king's brother, was functioning effectively as a constitutional monarch, the Nepali Congress government was in control, and all the political parties, including the Maoists, were engaged in political dialogues. In late November, however, in the wake of renewed Maoist violence, the king and Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba declared a state of emergency. The army and the Maoists were still battling at year's end.

      Nepal's difficult but essential relationship with neighbouring India also caused major problems. Their vital 1996 trade treaty, due to expire in December 2001, was extended in November until March 2002 as negotiations continued.

      The economic-growth rate remained low, owing to a limited resource base, rapid population growth, environmental degradation, low levels of social development, and widespread poverty. Nepal's vast hydropower resources also were at an early stage of development—despite a variety of agreements with India and others on the subject—primarily because of political division within Nepal. In September Deuba's government announced major land-reform programs that could provide land to the large landless population.

Leo E. Rose

▪ 2001

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 24,702,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Krishna Prasad Bhattarai and, from March 22, Girija Prasad Koirala

      Girija Prasad Koirala replaced K.P. Bhattarai as prime minister of Nepal in March, though the Nepali Congress Party (NCP), which held a majority in Parliament, retained control over the central government throughout 2000. The most serious threat to the NCP cabinet came from the bitter infighting between the Koirala, Bhattarai, and Deuba NCP party factions, but they resolved their disputes. The seven other political parties with representation in Parliament were critical of the Koirala government but lacked the power to vote it out of office.

      Though posing no threat to the government, perhaps the most serious internal problem in Nepal was the “People's War” that had been launched by a small “Maoist” faction of the communist movement in the midwestern hill area and that since 1996 had resulted in more than 2,000 casualties. In July the government responded to ongoing protests and abolished bonded labour in the nation; some 36,000 serfs were subsequently freed.

      Relations with India were the most critical foreign policy issue. Nepal's economy showed few signs of improvement and was heavily dependent upon expanding the Nepal-Indian economic relationship, particularly through cooperative development of Nepal's vast water-storage and hydropower capacities.

Leo E. Rose

▪ 2000

Area:
147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 23,315,000
Capital:
Kathmandu
Head of state:
King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Girija Prasad Koirala and, from May 31, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai

      From 1996 to 1998 Nepal had several coalition governments headed by leaders from several political parties that had not handled the major political, economic, and social issues effectively. In December 1998 the last of these coalition governments—the Nepali Congress Party (NCP) and the Marxist-Leninist (ML) factions—collapsed and was succeeded by an NCP government, headed by G.P. Koirala, that had only a plurality in the parliament. In May 1999 Koirala called another general election, in which the NCP won a majority (110) of the seats.

      In the new government, K.P. Bhattarai replaced Koirala as prime minister, and Koirala assumed the post of NCP president. It was widely assumed that although the opposition parties did not constitute a serious threat to the NCP government, some internal disputes between the Bhattarai and Koirala factions in the NCP could cause problems. The Maoist insurrection in central-western Nepal continued through 1999, and while it was a bloody affair in a few districts, it did not pose a threat to the government in Kathmandu.

      The establishment of a stable one-party government led to some progress on both economic and foreign policy issues that had not been handled well by the coalition governments. Probably the most important were a series of agreements with India on the development of joint hydropower projects and a liberalization of Indian policy on the vital Nepali export trade to and through India.

Leo E. Rose

▪ 1999

      Area: 147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 21,959,000

      Capital: Kathmandu

      Chief of state: King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Surya Bahadur Thapa and, from April 15, Girija Prasad Koirala

      Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, leader of the National Democratic Party, incited political disorder on Jan. 8, 1998, when he asked King Birendra to dissolve the parliament and set a date for new elections. Thapa requested early elections following a threatened vote of no confidence by the opposition United Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist and Leninist. The king remained undecided about the issue and, after referring it to the Supreme Court for advice, decided to support the opposition's call for a special session of the parliament to discuss the no-confidence motion. On February 20 Thapa's government survived the vote of no confidence against it and thus ended the political and constitutional crisis.

      As agreed upon when the coalition government was formed in 1997, Prime Minister Thapa conceded the prime ministership to Girija Prasad Koirala, the leader of the Nepali Congress Party, the largest of the coalition partners. On April 15 Koirala was officially sworn in for his second term as prime minister. Thirteen NCP-UML ministers resigned en masse on December 15, but Koirala was able to strike an agreement with the communists and formed a new coalition, with himself continuing as prime minister, on December 21.

      Almost 250 people were killed in monsoon-induced floods and landslides between June and September. These floods caused livestock losses and considerable damage to infrastructure, property, and crops, particularly in the lowlands of the central and southeastern Terai region.

CLAUDE RAKISITS

▪ 1998

      Area: 147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 21,424,000

      Capital: Kathmandu

      Chief of state: King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev

      Head of government: Prime Ministers Sher Bahadur Deuba until March 6, Lokendra Bahadur Chand from March 12 until October 4, and, from October 7, Surya Bahadur Thapa

      In 1997 politics in Nepal proved once again to be volatile and unstable. In an attempt to shore up support, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba expanded and reshuffled his Cabinet on January 8 to include members of the legislature who had recently participated in a no-confidence motion against him. The move, however, did not save the prime minister's three-party coalition government from another no-confidence motion on March 6. After the second motion was made, King Birendra asked Lokendra Bahadur Chand, leader of a splinter faction of the centre-right Rashtriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), to form a new government.

      Chand's new ruling coalition—Nepal's fifth in seven years—was an uneasy alliance made up of his faction of the RPP, the pro-monarchist Nepal Sadbhavana Party (NSP), and the United Communist Party of Nepal. Even though it pursued economic liberalization and privatization, the new government was itself unable to avoid a no-confidence motion, registered by the National Congress Party (NCP) on October 4. As a result, King Birendra asked former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, an RPP leader, to form yet another three-party coalition government. Although Thapa's new coalition included the RPP, NCP, and NSP, it was decided that the NCP would head the government after one year. During Indian Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral's visit to Nepal in June, Kathmandu and New Delhi signed trade and civil aviation agreements and a pact ensuring Nepalese transit rights through India to Bangladesh.

CLAUDE RAKISITS

▪ 1997

      A constitutional monarchy, Nepal is a landlocked country in the Himalayas situated between India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. Area: 147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 20,892,000. Cap.: Kathmandu. Monetary unit: Nepalese rupee, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of NRs 56.78 to U.S. $1 (NRs 89.44 = £1 sterling). King, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev; prime minister in 1996, Sher Bahadur Deuba.

      In February 1996 the police clashed with members of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-Maoist) in western Nepal. Ten people were killed, and several were injured. According to the secretary-general of the CPN-Maoist, the party was seeking a revolutionary transformation of society.

      Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in March successfully defeated a no-confidence motion against his six-month-old three-party coalition government in a special sitting of the national legislature. The United Communist Party of Nepal had accused the government of having made the country "directionless, motionless, and aimless" since the communists were voted out of office in September 1995.

      In January India and Nepal signed the Makahali River Treaty, which allowed for the joint exploitation of that waterway. This was important for Nepal, as it opened the way for the development of the gigantic Pancheshwar hydroelectric project, the cost of which would be split equally between the two countries. (CLAUDE RAKISITS)

▪ 1996

      A constitutional monarchy, Nepal is a landlocked country in the Himalayas between India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. Area: 147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 20,093,000. Cap.: Kathmandu. Monetary unit: Nepalese rupee, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of NRs 50.39 to U.S. $1 (NRs 79.67 = £1 sterling). King, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev; prime ministers in 1995, Man Mohan Adhikari and, from September 12, Sher Bahadur Deuba.

      Prime Minister Man Mohan Adhikari's minority communist government (United Communist Party of Nepal [UCPN]), which had been installed on Nov. 30, 1994, had never had more than a precarious hold on power because its survival depended on the royalist National Democratic Party (NDP). Although it favoured a liberal market economy, the government's plans for a modest land reform were not well received by opposition parties. On June 13, 1995, King Birendra, on the advice of Adhikari, who claimed that talks with the opposition parties on the government's economic policies had broken down, dissolved the legislature and ordered new elections.

      The largest opposition party, the Nepali Congress Party (NCP), supported by the NDP, contested the king's decision to dissolve Parliament and argued before the Supreme Court that it had the right to try to form a new government. On August 28 the court concurred that Adhikari had acted unconstitutionally when he persuaded the king to dismiss the legislature. Accordingly, on September 12, after losing a vote of confidence (88-107), Adhikari was compelled to yield the prime ministership to Sher Bahadur Deuba, leader of the NCP, who then formed a coalition government with the NDP. The UCPN's image was tarnished when some of its members, unhappy with the new state of affairs, staged several anti-Supreme Court marches.

      In early February Adhikari's foreign minister held talks with his Indian counterpart in New Delhi. The security provisions of the 1950 Indo-Nepalese Friendship Treaty were among the items Nepal wanted to discuss. Adhikari brought the matter up again when he visited India and China in April. (CLAUDE RAKISITS)

▪ 1995

      A constitutional monarchy, Nepal is a landlocked country in the Himalayas between India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. Area: 147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 19,525,000. Cap.: Kathmandu. Monetary unit: Nepalese rupee, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of NRs 49.40 to U.S. $1 (NRs 78.57 = £1 sterling). King, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev; prime ministers in 1994, Girija Prasad Koirala and, from November 30, Man Mohan Adhikari.

      As Nepal continued to adapt to the democratic form of government it adopted in 1990, the Himalayan nation showed an ability in 1994 to function relatively smoothly under a democratic administration.

      Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, Nepal's first democratically elected leader in three decades, resigned July 10 after losing a policy vote in Parliament. The dispute was rooted in factional fighting within Koirala's Nepali Congress Party (NCP). It also reflected frustration over his failure to make headway in overcoming Nepal's poverty and illiteracy and over his ineffective effort to stimulate development.

      Koirala was forced to step down when Parliament rejected his annual policy statement. The motion lost 86-74 even though Koirala's NCP occupied 114 of the 205 seats in the legislature. The motion failed because 36 members of the NCP abstained during the voting. When new elections were held on November 15, the United Communist Party of Nepal won a plurality of 88 of the contested seats in the House of Representatives, and Koirala's NCP won only 83—a net loss of 27. On November 30 Man Mohan Adhikari was sworn in as prime minister.

      Although Koirala took some measures to modernize and liberalize the economy, Nepal remained one of the world's poorest countries. It had an annual per capita income of $180 and an infant mortality rate of nearly 10%. Nearly three-quarters of the population could not read or write.

      The communists in Nepal, who got ideological support from neighbouring China, led an anti-Koirala campaign that led to the deaths of 12 protesters when police fired at demonstrators in Kathmandu.

      Nepal's relations with both China and India remained cordial. China agreed in August to let more foreign tourists travel to Tibet via Nepal to promote tourism in both countries. Every year 350,000 foreign tourists visited Nepal to view its stunning mountain scenery. China also gave Nepal a $10 million loan to hasten economic development. (DILIP GANGULY)

▪ 1994

      A constitutional monarchy, Nepal is a landlocked country in the Himalayas between India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China. Area: 147,181 sq km (56,827 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 19,264,000. Cap.: Kathmandu. Monetary unit: Nepalese rupee, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of NRs 46.09 to U.S. $1 (NRs 69.83 = £1 sterling). King, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev; prime minister in 1993, Girija Prasad Koirala.

      The United Nepal Communist Party and allied smaller communist parties, which had helped transform this Himalayan nation from an absolute monarchy to a democracy in 1990, led several strikes and street protests in 1993 in an effort to unseat the elected government.

      The conflict between the communists, the largest opposition group in Parliament (82 of the 205 seats), and the Nepali Congress Party of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala began on May 16 with a road accident in which two prominent communists were killed. An official investigation blamed driver negligence for the deaths, but the communists insisted that the men had been killed by the government.

      In June, July, and September, the communists led general strikes and protests in Kathmandu and two neighbouring towns. Police opened fire on protesters, and at least 12 people were killed. The events in 1993 were the first major street violence since the 1990 popular antimonarchy uprising, which forced King Birendra to surrender his absolute power.

      On the international front, Nepal's king and queen visited China in September. This was King Birendra's seventh visit to China since ascending the throne in 1972. Beijing (Peking) remained Nepal's biggest source of foreign aid, and in 1993 China helped Nepal build highways, industries, and hydroelectric power plants. (DILIP GANGULY)

* * *

Introduction
Nepal, flag of  country of Asia, lying along the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountain ranges. It is a landlocked country located between India to the east, south, and west and the Tibet Autonomous Region of China to the north. Its territory extends roughly 500 miles (800 kilometres) from east to west and 90 to 150 miles from north to south. The capital is Kāthmāndu.

      Nepal, long under the rule of hereditary prime ministers favouring a policy of isolation, remained closed to the outside world until a palace revolt in 1950 restored the crown's authority in 1951; the country gained admission to the United Nations in 1955. In 1991 the kingdom established a multiparty parliamentary system. In 2008, however, after a decade-long period of violence and turbulent negotiation with a strong Maoist insurgency, the monarchy was dissolved, and Nepal was declared a democratic republic.

      Wedged between two giants, India and China, Nepal seeks to keep a balance between the two countries in its foreign policy—and thus to remain independent. A factor that contributes immensely to the geopolitical importance of the country is the fact that a strong Nepal can deny China access to the rich Gangetic Plain; Nepal thus marks the southern boundary of the Chinese sphere north of the Himalayas in Asia.

      As a result of its years of geographic and self-imposed isolation, Nepal is one of the least developed nations of the world. In recent years many countries, including India, China, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Denmark, Germany, Canada, and Switzerland, have provided economic assistance to Nepal. The extent of foreign aid to Nepal has been influenced to a considerable degree by the strategic position of the country between India and China.

The land

Relief
  Nepal contains some of the most rugged and difficult mountain terrain in the world. Roughly 75 percent of the country is covered by mountains. From the south to the north, Nepal can be divided into four main physical belts, each of which extends east to west across the country. These are, first, the Tarai, a low, flat, fertile land adjacent to the border of India; second, the forested Churia foothills and the Inner Tarai zone, rising from the Tarai plain to the rugged Mahābhārat Range; third, the mid-mountain region between the Mahābhārat Range and the Great Himalayas; and, fourth, the Great Himalaya Range, rising to more than 29,000 feet (some 8,850 metres).

      The Tarai forms the northern extension of the Gangetic Plain and varies in width from less than 16 to more than 20 miles, narrowing considerably in several places. A 10-mile-wide belt of rich agricultural land stretches along the southern part of the Tarai; the northern section, adjoining the foothills, is a marshy region in which wild animals abound and malaria is endemic.

      The Churia Range, which is sparsely populated, rises in almost perpendicular escarpments to an altitude of more than 4,000 feet. Between the Churia Range to the south and the Mahābhārat Range to the north, there are broad basins from 2,000 to 3,000 feet high, about 10 miles wide, and 20 to 40 miles long; these basins are often referred to as the Inner Tarai. In many places they have been cleared of the forests and savanna grass to provide timber and areas for cultivation.

      A complex system of mountain ranges, some 50 miles in width and varying in elevation from 8,000 to 14,000 feet, lie between the Mahābhārat Range and the Great Himalayas. The ridges of the Mahābhārat Range present a steep escarpment toward the south and a relatively gentle slope toward the north. To the north of the Mahābhārat Range, which encloses the valley of Kāthmāndu, are the more lofty ranges of the Inner Himalaya (Lesser Himalaya), rising to perpetually snow-covered peaks. The Kāthmāndu and the Pokharā valleys lying within this mid-mountain region are flat basins, formerly covered with lakes, that were formed by the deposition of fluvial and fluvioglacial material brought down by rivers and glaciers from the enclosing ranges during the four glacial and intervening warm phases of the Pleistocene Epoch (from about 1,600,000 to 10,000 years ago).

      The Great Himalaya Range, ranging in elevation from 14,000 to more than 29,000 feet, contains many of the world's highest peaks—Everest, Kānchenjunga I, Lhotse I, Makālu I, Cho Oyu, Dhaulāgiri I, Manāslu I, and Annapūrna I—all of them above 26,400 feet. Except for scattered settlements in high mountain valleys, this entire area is uninhabited.

Drainage
      The Kāthmāndu (Kathmandu) Valley, the political and cultural hub of the nation, is drained by the Bāghmati River (Baghmati River), flowing southward, which washes the steps of the sacred temple of Paśupatinātha (Pashupatinath) and rushes out of the valley through the deeply cut Chhobar gorge. Some sandy layers of the lacustrine beds act as aquifers (water-bearing strata of permeable rock, sand, or gravel), and springs occur in the Kāthmāndu Valley where the sands outcrop. The springwater often gushes out of dragon-shaped mouths of stone made by the Nepalese; it is then collected in tanks for drinking and washing and also for raising paddy nurseries in May, before the monsoon. Drained by the Seti River, the Pokharā Valley, 96 miles west of Kāthmāndu, is also a flat lacustrine basin. There are a few remnant lakes in the Pokharā basin, the largest being Phewa Lake, which is about two miles long and nearly a mile wide. North of the basin lies the Annapūrna massif of the Great Himalaya Range.

      The major rivers of Nepal—the Kosi (Kosi River), Nārāyani (Gandak), and Karnāli, running southward across the strike of the Himalayan ranges—form transverse valleys with deep gorges, which are generally several thousand feet in depth from the crest of the bordering ranges. The watershed of these rivers lies not along the line of highest peaks in the Himalayas but to the north of it, usually in Tibet.

      The rivers have considerable potential for development of hydroelectric power. Two irrigation-hydroelectric projects have been undertaken jointly with India on the Kosi and Nārāyani rivers. Discussions have been held to develop the enormous potential of the Karnāli River. A 60,000-kilowatt hydroelectric project at Kulekhani, funded by the World Bank, Kuwait, and Japan, began operation in 1982.

      In the upper courses of all Nepalese rivers, which run through mountain regions, there are little or no flood problems. In low-lying areas of the Tarai plain, however, serious floods occur.

      The rivers and small streams of the Tarai, especially those in which the dry season discharge is small, are polluted by large quantities of domestic waste thrown into them. Towns and villages have expanded without proper provision for sewage disposal facilities, and more industries have been established at selected centres in the Tarai. The polluted surface water in the Kāthmāndu and Pokharā valleys, as well as in the Tarai, are unacceptable for drinking.

Climate
      Nepal's climate, influenced by elevation as well as by its location in a subtropical latitude, ranges from subtropical monsoon conditions in the Tarai, through a warm temperate climate between 4,000 and 7,000 feet in the mid-mountain region, to cool temperate conditions in the higher parts of mountains between 7,000 and 11,000 feet, to an Alpine climate at altitudes between 14,000 and 16,000 feet along the lower slopes of the Himalaya mountains. At altitudes above 16,000 feet the temperature is always below freezing and the surface covered by snow and ice. Rainfall is ample in the eastern portion of the Tarai (which receives from 70 to 75 inches [1,800 to 1,900 millimetres] a year at Bīratnagar) and in the mountains, but the western portion of Nepal (where from 30 to 35 inches a year fall at Mahendranagar) is drier.

      In Kāthmāndu Valley, average temperatures range from 50° F (10° C) in January to 78° F (26° C) in July, and the lowest and highest temperatures recorded have been 27° and 99° F (-3° and 37° C). The average annual rainfall is about 55 inches, most of which falls in the period from June to September. At Pokharā the temperature ranges from 40° F (4° C) in January to approximately 100° F (38° C) in June, just before the monsoon. In winter, temperatures during the day rise to 70° F (21° C), creating pleasant conditions, with cool nights and warm days. Because warm rain-bearing monsoon winds discharge most of their moisture as they encounter the Annapūrna range, rainfall is quite heavy (about 100 inches) in the Pokharā Valley.

Plant life
      The natural vegetation of Nepal follows the pattern of climate and altitude. A tropical, moist zone of deciduous vegetation occurs in the Tarai and the Churia Range. These forests consist mainly of khair (Acacia catechu), a spring tree with yellow flowers and flat pods; sissoo (Dalbergia sissoo), an East Indian tree yielding dark brown durable timber; and sal (Shorea robusta), an East Indian timber tree with foliage providing food for lac insects (which deposit lac, a resinous substance used for the manufacture of shellac and varnishes, on the tree's twigs). On the Mahābhārat Range, at elevations between 5,000 and 10,000 feet, vegetation consists of a mixture of many species, chiefly pines, oaks, rhododendrons, poplars, walnuts, and larch. Between 10,000 and 12,000 feet, fir mixed with birch, as well as rhododendron, abound. In the mid-mountain region of Nepal a fairly dense population has cleared all but the most inaccessible parts of the forest, which are restricted to areas of steep slopes and rocky terrain. Similarly, all readily accessible parts of valuable sal forest in the Tarai have been devastated by overcutting and depletive practices. The vast forested area below the timber line in the Great Himalaya Range bears some of the most valuable forests in Nepal, containing spruce, fir, cypress, juniper, and birch. Alpine vegetation occupies higher parts of the Great Himalaya Range. Just below the snow line, between 14,000 and 15,000 feet, grassy vegetation affords favourable grazing ground in summer.

Pradyumna P. Karan

Animal life
      The forested areas of the Tarai are the home of tigers and leopards, gaurs (wild ox), occasional elephants and buffalo, and many deer; the deer include chital, or axis, deer (which have white-spotted bodies), sambar (a large Asiatic deer with coarse hair on the throat and strong antlers), and swamp deer. The Lesser Rāpti Valley, in south-central Nepal, is one of the last homes of the great Indian rhinoceros (Rhinoceros unicornis). Much poaching has gone on, as the horn of the rhinoceros is reputed to be valuable as an aphrodisiac, but in the 1960s the Nepal government organized protective measures.

      There are few wild animals in the central zone because of the clearing of forests. Occasional leopards, bears, and smaller carnivores inhabit the forests and ravines, and muntjacs (a kind of small deer, also called the barking deer) are found in the woods. In the Alpine zone are musk deer, widely hunted for the musk pods they carry, the tahr (a Himalayan beardless wild goat), the goral (any of several goat antelopes, closely related to the Rocky Mountain goat), and wild sheep, which are preyed upon by wolves and snow leopards. Pheasant are common. The Yeti (bear-man, or Abominable Snowman) is said by the Sherpa to inhabit the high snow mountains but has eluded discovery by several expeditions. Strange tracks are often found in the snow, but it is believed that they are probably made by bears. River wildlife includes the mahseer, a large freshwater food and sport fish.

Richard Riseley Proud Matinuzzaman Zuberi

The people (Nepal)
      The large-scale migrations of Asian groups from Tibet and Indo-Aryan people from northern India, which accompanied the early settlement of Nepal, have produced a diverse linguistic, ethnic, and religious pattern. Nepalese of Indo-Aryan ancestry comprise the people of the Tarai, the Pahari, the Newar, and the Tharus—the great majority of the total population. 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. Most of the Tibeto-Nepalese groups—the Tamang, Rai, Limbu, Bhutia (including the Sherpa), and Sunwar—live in the north and east, while the Magar and Gurung inhabit west-central Nepal. The majority of the famous Gurkha contingents in the British army have come from the Magar, Gurung, and Rai groups.

      The principal and official language of Nepal is Nepālī (Nepali language) (Gorkhali), spoken in the Tarai and the mid-mountain region. Nepālī, a derivative of Sanskrit, belongs to the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European family. There are a number of regional dialects found in the Tarai and mountain areas. The languages of the north and east belong predominantly to the Tibeto-Burman family. These include Magar, Gurung, Rai, Limbu, Sunwar, Tamang, Newari, and a number of Bhutia dialects, including Sherpa and Thakali. Although Newari is commonly placed in the Tibeto-Burman family, it was influenced by both Tibeto-Burman and Indo-European languages.

      In Nepal a vast majority of the population is Hindu, but a small percentage follows Buddhism or other religious faiths. Hindus and Buddhists tend to be concentrated in areas where Indian and Tibetan cultural influences, respectively, have been dominant.

      Almost all Nepalese live in villages or in small market centres. Outside of Kāthmāndu, there are no major cities. Smaller urban centres (Birātnagar, Nepālganj, and Birganj) are located in the Tarai along the Indian border, and Pokharā is situated in a valley in the mid-mountain region. In addition, a few townships—such as Hitaura, Būtwal, and Dharān—have begun to emerge in the foothills and hill areas, where economic activity has developed.

The economy
      Landlocked, lacking substantial resources for economic development, and hampered by an inadequate transportation network, Nepal is one of the least developed nations in the world. The economy is heavily dependent on imports of basic materials and on foreign markets for its forest and agricultural products. Nepal imports essential commodities, such as fuel, construction materials, fertilizers, metals, and most consumer goods, and exports such products as rice, jute, timber, and textiles.

      The political and administrative system of Nepal has not made those changes in trade, investment, and related economic policies that would expedite economic development and attract foreign capital. The government's development programs, which are funded by foreign aid, also have failed to respond directly to the needs of rural people.

Resources
      Nepal's mineral resources are small, scattered, and barely developed. There are known deposits of coal (lignite), iron ore, magnesite, copper, cobalt, pyrite (used for making sulfuric acid), limestone, and mica. Nepal's great river systems provide immense potential for hydroelectric development. If developed and utilized within the country and exported to India (the principal market for power generated in Nepal), it could become a mainstay of the country's economy.

Agriculture
      Agriculture—primarily the cultivation of rice, corn (maize), and wheat—engages most of Nepal's population and accounts for well over half of the country's export earnings. Yet agricultural productivity is very low. The low yields result from shortages of fertilizers and improved seed and from the use of inefficient techniques. Because only a tiny percentage of Nepal's cultivated land area is under irrigation, output depends upon the vagaries of the weather. Potatoes, sugarcane, and millet are other major crops. Cattle, buffalo, goats, and sheep are the principal livestock raised.

      On the whole, Nepal has a small surplus in food grains. There are, however, major dislocations in supply and demand. Periods of shortage between harvests of various crops occur in the mountain areas. At the same time, substantial amounts of food grain are moved to India from the Tarai. Because of the lack of adequate transportation, surplus food grain from the Tarai does not move north into the food deficit areas of the mid-mountain region. Some food grains move northward from the Tarai and the mountain areas into Tibet, however, despite a shortage in the mountain regions.

      The greatest potential for increases in agricultural production is in the Tarai. In the mid-mountain region the potential for increasing production is limited. Because of the high population concentration in this region, almost all land capable of cultivation is tilled. Increasing the cultivated land area by cutting into standing forests aggravates erosion and results in reduced yields and land losses by landslides. Major projects have been undertaken in an effort to halt soil erosion and deforestation.

Forestry
      About one-third of Nepal's total area is forested; most of this area is state-owned. In spite of overcutting and poor management, timber represents one of the country's most valuable resources and is a major source of potential revenue. Exports of forest products constitute an important source of Indian rupees. Almost all timber is exported to India. The sawmills of the Timber Corporation of Nepal, a government-owned lumber-processing concern, supply Kāthmāndu Valley with construction and furniture wood.

Industry and trade
      Industrial production represents a small but growing segment of economic activity. Most industries are small, localized operations based on the processing of agricultural products. The jute industry, centred in Birātnagar, is an important earner of foreign exchange. Sugar factories are located in Birātnagar, Birganj, and Bhairahawā. There are a sawmill and a meat-processing plant in Hitaura and a number of rice and oil mills in the Tarai. Other industries include brick and tile manufacture; processing of construction materials, paper, and food grain; cigarette manufacture; cement production; and brewing of beer. In general, there are more industrial enterprises in the private than in the public sector, although most of these are cottage industries. The main areas of manufacturing concentration are Birātnagar, the Birganj–Hitaura corridor, and the Kāthmāndu Valley.

      Tourism represents a small but expanding industry. Foreign tourism is primarily confined to the Kāthmāndu Valley, which is the only area equipped with the necessary hotels, food supplies, roads, and international transport services. There are, however, many areas outside the Kāthmāndu Valley with potential for the development of tourism; these include Pokharā, the Mount Everest area, and the Nārāyani area (where big game exists).

      For geographic and historical reasons, nearly all of Nepal's trade is with India. Attempts have been made to diversify trade through agreements with such countries as Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, the United States, Germany, Poland, and China. The state trading agency, National Trading Limited, has expanded its activities by fostering the development of commercial entrepreneurial activity. Large-scale commercial activity has hitherto been in the hands of foreigners, primarily Indians.

      Nepal's foreign trade and balance of payments have suffered setbacks, and exports have not increased enough to pay for imports of consumer goods and basic supplies. Nepal's dependence on the Indian market for most of its imports and exports and on the port of Calcutta for its access to the sea has been the source of periodic friction between the two countries.

Transportation
      Transport facilities in Nepal are very limited; few independent nations in the world of comparable size have such little road mileage and so few motor vehicles. Construction of new roads has been undertaken since the 1970s with aid from India, China, Great Britain, and the United States. The main means of transportation has been the network of footpaths, which interlace the mountain terrain and valleys. Trails have evolved into main trade routes, which tend to follow the river systems.

      The meagre road-transport facilities in Nepal are supplemented by only a few railway and air-transport links. Increased use of road transport has reduced the significance of the two narrow-gauge railroads that run from Amlekhganj to Raxaul (India) and from Janakpūr to Jaynagar (India). The Royal Nepal Airline Corporation, an autonomous government agency, is the only commercial airline. Together with Indian Airlines, it operates flights from Kāthmāndu to various points in India and other nearby countries. Domestic air service within the country has been expanded. The United States built the Kāthmāndu–Hitaura aerial ropeway in the 1950s, and it is still used for carrying goods into the capital.

Leo E. Rose

Administration and social conditions

Government
      Although reforms in the 1950s began to move the kingdom toward a democratic political system, the crown dissolved Parliament in 1960 and subsequently banned political parties. Thereafter, Nepal became only nominally a constitutional monarchy, and the constitution of 1962 (amended 1967, 1976, and 1980) effectively gave the king autocratic control over a multitiered system of panchayats (panchayat) (local bodies, or councils). In the 1980s, political restrictions were eased, and organizations such as the Nepali Congress Party, the Communist Party of Nepal, numerous small left-leaning student groups, and several radical Nepalese antimonarchist groups were allowed to operate more or less openly. Political parties, however, were not again legalized until 1990, when nationwide unrest forced King Birendra (Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev) to accept the formation of a multiparty parliamentary system.

      A new constitution promulgated on Nov. 9, 1990, greatly reduced the power of the monarchy. The king remained the head of state, but effective executive power was given to the Council of Ministers, headed by the prime minister. Appointed by the king, the prime minister was required to be either the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives (the lower house of Parliament) or, if there was no majority party, a representative who could form a coalition majority.

      The king was constitutionally also a part of Parliament and was charged with giving assent to bills that had been passed by both legislative chambers—the House of Representatives and the National Council (the upper house). The House of Representatives consisted of 205 members popularly elected to five-year terms. The 60 members of the National Council held six-year terms; 10 were nominated by the king, 35 were elected by the House of Representatives (of which 3 had to be women), and 15 were selected by an electoral college. The constitution gave the House of Representatives considerably more power than the National Council.

      All Nepalese citizens 18 and older are eligible to vote. Because most voters in Nepal are illiterate, candidates largely have been chosen by party symbol (e.g., a tree for the Nepali Congress Party and a sun for the United Marxist-Leninist Party of Nepal). Some voters, moreover, have had to travel long distances, in some cases for hours along mountain paths, in order to reach a polling station.

      Prior to 1990 the country was divided for administrative purposes into 5 development regions, 14 zones, and 75 districts; in addition, there were corresponding regional, zonal, and district courts, as well as a Supreme Court. The 1990 constitution mandated the elimination of the regional and zonal courts, which were to be replaced by appellate courts. The administrative divisions themselves continued to exist as provisional units.

      The early 21st century was a tumultuous yet transformative period in Nepal's governmental history. A Maoist insurgency that had been gaining strength since the late 1990s demanded not only the election of a constituent assembly to draft a new constitution but also the abolition of the monarchy. As the insurgents negotiated with the government, tensions escalated into violence. Following intermittent peace talks, abortive cease-fires, dissolution and reconstitution of the House of Representatives, and major abrogation of the king's authority, the Maoists and the government finally agreed to the drafting of an interim constitution—promulgated in January 2007—and the formation of an interim administration. Elections for a constituent assembly of some 600 members were held in April 2008, and the following month the monarchy was indeed dissolved and Nepal declared a republic. Meanwhile, the country continued to operate under an interim constitution that provided for a unicameral legislature and a Council of Ministers, with most of the power vested in the prime minister.

Ed.

Armed forces and police
      Nepal's armed forces consist of the Royal Nepalese Army, predominantly an infantry force. The Army Flight Department operates all aircraft. Except for a few simple weapons, all military supplies are imported. Nepal is famous for the fighting qualities of its Gurkha soldiers; nearly 10,000 of these serve in British Gurkha units, and 50,000 in Indian Gurkha units. The British maintain a recruiting centre at Dharān. Gurkha veterans are a valuable human resource of Nepal.

      For police purposes the country is divided into three zones: eastern, central, and western, with headquarters at Birātnagar, Kāthmāndu, and Nepālganj, respectively. Each zonal headquarters, under a deputy inspector general of police, is responsible for several subsections composed of four to five police districts operating under a superintendent of police. A district superintendent is in charge of police stations in his area, and each station normally is supervised by a head constable.

Health and education
      The Ministry of Health is responsible for the support and administration of public health services, including hospitals and health clinics. Although the government has taken steps to improve existing health centres and to establish new ones, health care remains inadequate. Malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, and typhoid are prevalent in spite of government projects to control or eradicate them. Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, is popular in Nepal.

      The Ministry of Education and Culture is responsible for administration and supervision of all elementary and secondary education. Higher education has developed relatively recently. The first college was established in 1918, and Tribhuvan University in Kāthmāndu, with faculties of arts, sciences, commerce, and education, was chartered in 1959. The University Senate has sole legal responsibility for higher education and the authority to grant academic recognition to colleges but is largely dependent upon the Ministry of Education for funds.

Cultural life
      The relaxation of censorship that followed the overthrow of Rana rule in 1951 encouraged a revival of artistic and intellectual expression. In literature and poetry, Nepālī works emphasize the cultural renaissance and national patriotism. King Mahendra, a poet whose Nepālī lyrics have been published in English translation under the name of M.B.B. Shah (for Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah), did much to promote the revival of arts and literature.

      The cultural heritage of Nepal, particularly contributions made by the Newar of Kāthmāndu Valley to sculpture, painting, and architecture, is a source of great pride. Hindu and Buddhist religious values have provided the basic source of inspiration to Newar artisans. The themes of most artistic works have been primarily religious; the lives of the gods, saints, and heroes and the relationship of man to society and to the universe are expounded in sculpture, architecture, and drama. In Kāthmāndu Valley some 2,500 temples and shrines display the skill and highly developed aesthetic sense of Newar artisans.

      Music and dance are favourite pastimes among the Nepalese. Religious ceremonies require the use of drums and wind instruments preserved from ancient times. Important in most religious and family occasions are devotional songs that have elements of both classical and folk music and that have been used by some contemporary musical revivalists in their attempt to bridge the gap between the two. The government-owned Radio Nepal broadcasts programs in Nepālī and English. The country's first television station, at Kāthmāndu, began broadcasting in 1986.

      Newspapers and periodicals are published in Nepālī and in English. Newspapers are frequently sensational in tone and are poorly staffed and financed. Gorkha Patra, published by the government, occupies a commanding position in the Nepalese press. Nepalese newspaper readers rely on the foreign press, particularly Indian newspapers, which are flown daily into Kāthmāndu (Kathmandu), for more sophisticated coverage of world and national news.

      After 1960 King Mahendra required newspapers to obtain official clearance for all reports of political activity. Subsequently the government increased its censorship, and in 1985 the publication of many newspapers was suspended. In 1990, reflecting the change in the country's political climate, freedom of the press was restored.

Pradyumna P. Karan

History

Prehistory and early history
      Nepal's rich prehistory consists mainly of the legendary traditions of the Newar, the indigenous community of Nepal Valley (now usually called Kāthmāndu Valley). There are usually both Buddhist (Buddhism) and Brahmanic Hindu (Hinduism) versions of these various legends. Both versions are accepted indiscriminately in the festivals associated with legendary events, a tribute to the remarkable synthesis that has been achieved in Nepal between the two related but divergent value systems.

      References to Nepal Valley and Nepal's lower hill areas are found in the ancient Indian classics, suggesting that the Central Himalayan hills were closely related culturally and politically to the Gangetic Plain at least 2,500 years ago. Lumbinī, Gautama Buddha's birthplace in southern Nepal, and Nepal Valley also figure prominently in Buddhist accounts. There is substantial archaeological evidence of an early Buddhist influence in Nepal, including a famous column inscribed by Aśoka (emperor of India, 3rd century BC) at Lumbinī and several shrines in the valley.

      A coherent dynastic history for Nepal Valley becomes possible, though with large gaps, with the rise of the Licchavi dynasty in the 4th or 5th century AD. Although the earlier Kirati dynasty had claimed the status of the Kshatriya caste of rulers and warriors, the Licchavis were probably the first ruling family in that area of plains Indian origin. This set a precedent for what became the normal pattern thereafter—Hindu kings claiming high-caste Indian origin ruling over a population much of which was neither Indo-Aryan nor Hindu.

      The Licchavi dynastic chronicles, supplemented by numerous stone inscriptions, are particularly full from AD 500 to 700; a powerful, unified kingdom also emerged in Tibet during this period, and the Himalayan passes to the north of the valley were opened. Extensive cultural, trade, and political relations developed across the Himalayas, transforming the valley from a relatively remote backwater into the major intellectual and commercial centre between South and Central Asia. Nepal's contacts with China began in the mid-7th century with the exchange of several missions. But intermittent warfare between Tibet and China terminated this relationship; and, while there were briefly renewed contacts in subsequent centuries, these were reestablished on a continuing basis only in the late 18th century.

Middle period
      The middle period in Nepalese history is usually considered coterminous with the rule of the Malla dynasty (10th–18th century) in Nepal Valley and surrounding areas. Although most of the Licchavi kings were devout Hindus, they did not impose Brahmanic social codes or values on their non-Hindu subjects; the Mallas perceived their responsibilities differently, however, and the great Malla ruler Jaya Sthiti (reigned c. 1382–95) introduced the first legal and social code strongly influenced by contemporary Hindu principles.

      Jaya Sthiti's successor, Yakṣa Malla (reigned c. 1429–c. 1482), divided his kingdom among his three sons, thus creating the independent principalities of Kāthmāndu, Pātan, and Bhaktpūr (Bhādgāon) in the valley. Each of these states controlled territory in the surrounding hill areas, with particular importance attached to the trade routes northward to Tibet and southward to India that were vital to the valley's economy. There were also numerous small principalities in the western and eastern hill areas, whose independence was sustained through a delicate balance of power based upon traditional interrelationships and, in some cases, common ancestral origins (or claims thereto) among the ruling families. By the 16th century virtually all these principalities were ruled by dynasties claiming high-caste Indian origin whose members had fled to the hills in the wake of Muslim invasions of northern India.

      In the early 18th century one of the principalities—Gorkha (also spelled Gurkha), ruled by the Shah family—began to assert a predominant role in the hills and even to pose a challenge to Nepal Valley. The Mallas, weakened by familial dissension and widespread social and economic discontent, were no match for the great Gorkha ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah (Prithvi Nārāyaṇ Shah). He conquered the valley in 1769 and moved his capital to Kāthmāndu shortly thereafter, providing the foundation for the modern state of Nepal.

Modern period
      The Shah (or Sah) rulers faced tremendous and persistent problems in trying to centralize an area long characterized by extreme diversity and ethnic and regional parochialism. They established a centralized political system by absorbing dominant regional and local elites into the central administration at Kāthmāndu. This action neutralized potentially disintegrative political forces and involved them in national politics, but it also severely limited the centre's authority in outlying areas because local administration was based upon a compromise division of responsibilities between the local elites and the central administration.

      From 1775 to 1951, Nepalese politics was characterized by confrontations between the royal family and several noble families. The position of the Shah dynasty was weakened by the fact that the two kings who ruled successively between 1777 and 1832 were minors when they ascended the throne. The regents and the nobility competed for political power, using the young rulers as puppets; both factions wanted a monopoly of political offices and power for their families, with their rivals exterminated, exiled to India, or placed in a subordinate status. This was achieved by the Thapa family (1806–37) and, even more extensively, by the Rana family (1846–1951). In these periods, the Shah ruler was relegated to an honorary position without power, while effective authority was concentrated in the hands of the leading members of the dominant family. Although intrafamilial arrangements on such questions as the succession and the distribution of responsibilities and spoils were achieved, no effective national political institutions were created. The excluded noble families had only two alternatives—to accept inferior posts in the administration and army or to conspire for the overthrow of the dominant family. Until 1950 and to some extent thereafter, Nepalese politics was basically conspiratorial in character, with familial loyalty taking precedence over loyalty to the crown or nation.

External relations, 1750–1950
      Prithvi Narayan Shah (reigned 1742–75) and his successors established a unified state in the central Himalayas and launched an ambitious and remarkably vigorous program of expansion, seeking to bring the entire hill area, from Bhutan to Kashmir, under their authority. They made considerable progress, but successive setbacks in wars with China and Tibet (1788–92), with the Sikh kingdom in the Punjab (1809), with British (British Empire) India (1814–16), and again with Tibet (1854–56) frustrated Nepal and set the present boundaries of the kingdom.

      The British conquest of India in the 19th century posed a serious threat to Nepal—which expected to be another victim—and left the country with no real alternative but to seek an accommodation with the British to preserve its independence. This was accomplished by the Rana family regime after 1860 on terms that were mutually acceptable, if occasionally irritating, to both. Under this de facto alliance, Kāthmāndu permitted the recruitment of Nepalese for the highly valued Gurkha units in the British Indian Army and also accepted British “guidance” on foreign policy; in exchange, the British guaranteed the Rana regime against both foreign and domestic enemies and allowed it virtual autonomy in domestic affairs. Nepal, however, was also careful to maintain a friendly relationship with China and Tibet, both for economic reasons and to counterbalance British predominance in South Asia.

      The British withdrawal from India in 1947 deprived the Ranas of a vital external source of support and exposed the regime to new dangers. Anti-Rana forces, composed mainly of Nepalese residents in India who had served their political apprenticeship in the Indian nationalist movement, formed an alliance with the Nepalese royal family, led by King Tribhuvan (reigned 1911–55), and launched a revolution in November 1950. With strong diplomatic support from New Delhi, the rebels accepted a settlement with the Ranas under which the sovereignty of the crown was restored and the revolutionary forces, led by the Nepali Congress (NC) party, gained an ascendant position in the administration.

Nepal since 1950
      The introduction of a democratic political system in Nepal, a country accustomed to autocracy and with no deep democratic tradition or experience, proved a formidable task. A constitution was finally approved in 1959, under which general elections for a national assembly were held. The NC won an overwhelming victory and was entrusted with the formation of Nepal's first popular government. But persistent controversy between the Cabinet and King Mahendra (reigned 1955–72) led the king to dismiss the Nepali Congress government in December 1960 and to imprison most of the party's leaders. The constitution of 1959 was abolished in 1962, and a new constitution was promulgated that established the crown as the real source of authority. King Mahendra obtained both Indian and Chinese acceptance of his regime, and the internal opposition was weak, disorganized, and discouraged. Mahendra died in January 1972 and was succeeded by his son Birendra (Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev), who was crowned in 1975.

      Throughout the 1970s King Birendra (Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev) sought to expedite economic development programs while maintaining the “nonparty” political system established by his father. The results were disappointing on both accounts, and by 1979 a systemic crisis was evident. To meet the first serious political challenge to the monarchy since 1960, King Birendra announced in May 1979 that a national referendum would be held to decide between a nonparty and multiparty (by implication, parliamentary) political system. In the referendum, which was held in May 1980, the political groups supporting the existing nonparty system won by the relatively small margin of 55 percent, accurately reflecting the sharp differences in the country on basic political issues.

      It was in this context that King Birendra decided in 1980 to retain the 1962 constitution but to liberalize the political system by providing for direct popular election of the National Assembly. The government also permitted the “illegal” political parties, such as the NC, to function under only minimal constraints. Elections were still formally held on a “partyless” basis, but many candidates ran informally and openly as members of political parties.

      This partial movement toward a democratic parliamentary system satisfied neither the supporters of a multiparty constitutional monarchy nor several more radical leftist factions, and in February 1990 a coalition of centrist and leftist opposition forces began a campaign demanding basic political reforms. A series of protests and strikes followed nationwide, and the royal government's efforts to suppress the movement with force were ineffectual. In April, as the situation in Kāthmāndu Valley worsened, King Birendra lifted the ban on political parties, abrogated the more repressive security ordinances, and on April 16 appointed a coalition interim government headed by the president of the NC, K.S. Bhattarai, but also including the moderate faction of the communist movement, the United Leftist Front.

      The policy objectives of the interim government were “to maintain law and order, develop a multiparty system on the basis of constitutional monarchy, draft a new constitution, and hold general elections” to a parliament. Within a year, all four tasks were accomplished with remarkable success despite the broad divergence of views among the major political organizations. A draft of the new constitution, prepared by a broadly representative government commission, was submitted to the Palace and the Cabinet on September 10, 1990. In November, following two months of vigorous debate on a number of key issues—including the role of the king, the development of a secular state, emergency powers, and the status of Nepal's many languages—an amended version of the constitution was promulgated by King Birendra that provided for both a constitutional monarchy and a multiparty parliamentary political system.

      General elections held on May 12, 1991, gave the NC a majority in Parliament (110 of 205 seats), but the moderate Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)—CPN (UML)—with 69 seats, emerged as a strong opposition party. The two “Pancha” parties usually associated with the old system won only four seats. The elections were thus perceived to constitute a strong endorsement of the 1990 political changes, and G.P. Koirala (Koirala, Girija Prasad), the brother of Nepal's first elected prime minister (1959–60), was nominated by the NC and appointed by the king to head the new elected government.

      Nepal emerged from this period of rapid political change facing a multitude of economic and social problems; among these were a stagnant economy and a variety of regional ethnic and religious movements, some of whose basic demands were not acceptable to the country's Hindu majority. Although overwhelming support existed for the new democratic constitutional monarchy system, at both the party and the public level, the democratic movement itself remained badly fractionalized and antagonistic, making more difficult the new government's attempt to introduce the kind of hard-hitting economic and social policies the panchayat governments had carefully avoided in an effort to mollify several small but important interest groups.

Leo E. Rose
      The country's political life since 1990 has been marked by instability. The government was largely in the hands of the NC with brief periods of CPN (UML) control. However, the NC's leadership squabbled frequently, and the party splintered early in the 21st century. The killing in 2001 of the king and most members of the royal family by the crown prince (who also died, from self-inflicted wounds) further heightened tensions, and, after the massacre, Koirala, who was serving his third term as prime minister, was forced to resign.

      Meanwhile, a group of Maoist rebels emerged in the 1990s and rapidly grew in number and strength. The rebels often used violent tactics to champion the cause of the rural poor and advocated overthrowing the monarchy. By the early 21st century the Maoists not only posed a serious threat to the government but had virtually propelled the country into a state of civil war. Koirala was reelected to a fourth term as prime minister in April 2006, and later that year the government of Nepal and the Maoist insurgency signed a UN-mediated peace accord that provided for temporary representation of the Maoists in the Council of Ministers, restricted the rebel army to camps, and required both the Maoists and the Nepalese army to lock equal amounts of their arms in UN-monitored containers.

      An interim constitution, which transferred all executive power to the prime minister, was to remain in effect until the weapons management plan had been completed, elections had been held, and a permanent constitution had been drafted to replace the 1990 document. The extent of the duties of the king as head of state was to be determined by an elected constituent assembly, which would also draft a new constitution. Elections for the assembly were scheduled for June 2007, but they later were postponed until November of that year; they were postponed again after the Maoists pulled out of the government, demanding the immediate dissolution of the monarchy. In December 2007 the dominant parties agreed that the assembly, once elected, would not merely determine the fate of the monarchy but would indeed abolish it. When elections were finally held the following April, the Maoists won the most seats, and on May 28, 2008, more than two centuries of royal rule came to an end as the new assembly voted to declare Nepal a democratic republic. Elections for prime minister were held the following August, with Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda, winning an overwhelming victory.

Ed.

Additional Reading

Geography
General works on Nepal's geography include Pradyumna P. Karan, Nepal, a Cultural and Physical Geography (1960); Leo E. Rose and John T. Scholz, Nepal: Profile of a Himalayan Kingdom (1980), a concise study of the society, economy, and politics; and Chandra K. Sharma, Natural Resources of Nepal (1978). Problems of the natural environment are surveyed in Pradyumna P. Karan and Shigeru Iijima, “Environmental Stress in the Himalaya,” Geographical Review, 75:71–92 (January 1985).Noted studies on the people of Nepal include Alexander W. Macdonald, Essays on the Ethnology of Nepal and South Asia (1975); Dor Bahadur Bista, People of Nepal, 4th ed. (1980); Susanne Von Der Heide, The Thakalis of North-Western Nepal (1988); Suraj Subba, Botes, The Ferrymen of Tanahun (1989); and Christoph Von Fürer-Haimendorf, The Sherpas of Nepal: Buddhist Highlanders, 3rd ed. (1979). For information on demography, see United Nations. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Population of Nepal (1980); and Judith Banister and Shyam Thapa, The Population Dynamics of Nepal (1981). Studies specifically on the women of Nepal include Michael Allen and S.N. Mukherjee (eds.), Women in India and Nepal (1982); Indra Majupuria, Nepalese Women (1989); Pushkar Raj Reejal, Integration of Women in Development: The Case of Nepal (1981); and Kanchan Verma, Women in Development (1989). For a discussion of the country's cultural geography, see Prem K. Khatry, Aspects of Nepali Culture (1989); Pradyumna P. Karan and Cotton Mather, “Art and Geography: Patterns in the Himalaya,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 66:487–515 (December 1976); Michael J. Hutt, Nepali: A National Language and Its Liturature (1988), and Michael J. Hutt (ed. and trans.), Himalayan Voices: An Introduction to Modern Nepali Literature.Bengt-Erik Borgström, The Patron and the Panca: Village Values and Pancayat Democracy in Nepal (1976, reissued 1980), focuses on the country's former panchayat political system. For information on the country's economy, see B.P. Shreshtha, An Introduction to Nepalese Economy, 4th ed. (1981); Ram Krishna Shrestha and Pitamber Sharma (eds.), Nepal, Atlas of Economic Development (1980); Sriram Poudyal, Planned Development in Nepal (1983), a study of the functioning of the economic planning institutions since their introduction in 1956; and Gunanidhi Sharma, A Macroeconomic Study of the Nepalese Plan Performance (1989). Piers Blaikie, John Cameron, and David Seddon, Nepal in Crisis: Growth and Stagnation at the Periphery (1980); and Rizwanul Islam, Azizur Rahman Khan, and Eddy Lee, Employment and Development in Nepal (1982), explore the country's economic stagnation. For information on agriculture, see Manesh C. Regmi, Landownership in Nepal (1976), and Land Tenure and Taxation in Nepal, 2nd ed. (1978). David Seddon, Nepal, a State of Poverty (1987), examines the causes of social deprivation of the population.

History
R.S. Chauhan, Society and State Building in Nepal: From Ancient Times to Mid-Twentieth Century (1989), is an important social and historical survey of Nepal. For the early periods, see Alexander W. Macdonald (ed.), Les Royaumes de l'Himâlaya: histoire et civilisation: le Ladakh, le Bhoutan, le Sikkim, le Népal (1982). Among the works on the modern period are Ludwig F. Stiller, The Rise of the House of Gorkha: A Study in the Unification of Nepal, 1768–1816 (1973), a definitive analysis of the first 50 years of the dynasty; Rishikesh Shaha, Modern Nepal: A Political History, 1769–1955, 2 vol. (1990); and Krishna B. Thapa, Main Aspects of Social, Economic, and Administrative History of Modern Nepal (1988). Evolution of elitist politics under the Shah dynasty is addressed in Leo E. Rose and Margaret W. Fisher, The Politics of Nepal: Persistence and Change in an Asian Monarchy (1970); and Rishikesh Shaha, Essays in the Practice of Government in Nepal (1982). Other studies of internal politics include Satish Kumar, Rana Polity in Nepal: Origin and Growth (1967), focusing on the period from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries; Frederick H. Gaige, Regionalism and National Unity in Nepal (1975), on the problem of national integration; and Lok Raj Baral, Nepal's Politics of Referendum: A Study of Groups, Personalities & Trends (1983). For a cultural history of Nepal, see Mary Shepherd Slusser, Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley (1982); and Alexander W. Macdonald and Anne Vergati Stahl, Newar Art: Nepalese Art During the Malla Period (1979), a well-illustrated historical survey. A historical survey of religion is found in Gérard Toffin, Société et religion chez Néwar du Népal (1984). Nepal's foreign relations are discussed in Yadu Nath Khanal, Essays in Nepal's Foreign Affairs (1988); S.D. Muni, Foreign Policy of Nepal (1973); Govind R. Agrawal and Jai P. Rana (eds.), Nepal and Non-Alignment (1982); Jagadish Sharma, Nepal, Struggle for Existence (1986); Eugene Bramer Mihaly, Foreign Aid and Politics in Nepal (1965), on the effect of aid programs; Leo E. Rose, Nepal: Strategy for Survival (1971), on relations with India and China; and Shankar Kumar Jha (ed.), Indo-Nepal Relations (1989).Pradyumna P. Karan Leo E. Rose

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Universalium. 2010.

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  • NEPAL — Regis effigies in Musaeo Kircheriano Romae, Georg. de Sepibus in Descr. eius p. 7 …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Nèpāl — m 〈G Nepála〉 geogr. država u I dijelu središnje Azije, glavni grad Kathmandu …   Veliki rječnik hrvatskoga jezika

  • Nepal — País de Asia. Para el gentilicio, alternan en el uso y son igualmente válidas las formas nepalés y nepalí (pl. culto nepalíes; → plural, 1c): «Las mujeres nepalesas rezan a las diosas [...] de la fecundidad» (Leguineche Camino [Esp. 1995]); «Unos …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • Nepal — from Skt. Nepala, said to be from nipat to fly down (from ni down + pat to fly ) + alaya abode, house. If this is right, the reference would be to villages in mountain vales. Related: Nepalese …   Etymology dictionary

  • Nepal — Nèpāl m <G Nepála> DEFINICIJA geogr. država u I dijelu središnje Azije, 147.181 km2, 19.264.000 stan., glavni grad Kathmandu …   Hrvatski jezični portal


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