Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, located in South Asia,
is a landlocked country between China and India. Nepal’s ecological zones run east to west about 800
km along its Himalayan axis, and 150 to 250 km north to south. Nepal is divided into three main geographical regions:
The Himalayan Region, the Mid Hill Region and the Terai (plains) Region. The highest point in the country is
Mt. Everest (8,848 m), which is also the highest mountain of the world.
The lowest point is in Kechana Kalan in Jhapa (60 m).
Nepal was a Hindu Kingdom with a constitutional monarchy until 2006. On 18 May 2006, the House of Representatives unanimously voted to curtail the power of the King and declared Nepal a secular state. On 28 December 2007, a bill was passed in Parliament to amend Article 159 of the constitution – replacing “Provisions regarding the King" by “Provisions of the Head of the State" – declaring Nepal a Federal Republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy. The bill came into force on 28 May 2008.
On 21 November 2006, Nepal’s decade-long armed conflict ended with the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) between the Government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). A central pillar of the accord is the writing of a new constitution that grants equal rights and opportunities to all Nepalese people. In April 2008, elections to the Constituent Assembly (CA) were held. The original timeframe of completing the constitution by 28 May 2010 proved too ambitious and as a result the term of the assembly was extended four times and the last deadline to prepare a draft constitution was 28 May 2012. However the Assembly was not able to produce a constitution and it was dissolved on 27 May 2012.
After a few months' stalemate, the political parties agreed to go for a fresh mandate under an interim election government. Elections to the second Constituent Assembly were successfully held on 19 November 2013 and subsequently a new government and a new 601-member Constituent Assembly were formed. However, once again the deadline was not met. Currently, three months after the major earthquake of 25 April 2015, the latest draft constitution has been issued for feedback from citizens and other concerned bodies.
Population 26,494,504 (2011)
Male Literacy Rate 75.1%
Female Literacy Rate 57.4.%
Life Expectancy at Birth 66.16
GDP per capita (in US$) 712
Human Development Index 145
Nepal is divided into five physiographic regions (and three agro-ecological zones), which are almost parallel to each other, running from west to east. They are: the high Himalayan region, mountains, mid hills, Siwaliks and Terai.
High Himalayan Region:
This region, which is always covered by snow, occupies 23.7% of the total land – 3,447 500 ha. Its altitude ranges from 3,000 m to 8,848 m. The mountains are very steep with active glacier systems. The geology consists of gneiss, schist, limestone and shale of different ages. Physical weathering predominates and soils are very stony. This region falls largely within the alpine and arctic climate regimes, so there are active glacier systems where there is enough precipitation in high catchments. The climate is dependent on elevation and location in the mountain massifs. The few pockets of arable land of Solukhumbu, Mustang, Manang and Dolpa are the result of a unique combination of aspect, shelter from wind and availability of water for irrigation.
Characteristic landforms are glaciers, cirque basins, moraines, U-shaped valleys and avalanche slopes. Bedrock in most of the areas is exposed at or near the surface including gneisses, schist and the Tethys sediments. Less than 1% of the region has soil and climate suited to crop production and then only where irrigation is available.
The altitude of this region ranges from 2,000 m to 2,500 m and it lies below the permanent snow line. This region occupies 2,899,500 ha making up 19.7% of the country. It has a cool climate and receives heavy to moderate snow in winter. Mountain slopes are very steep but there are some flat valleys as well. The geology is characterized by phyllite, schists, gneiss and quartzite of different ages. Soil formation on the slopes is slow and they are rocky.
This region borders the mid hills to the south and the high Himal to the north. The boundaries are defined by changes in geomorphic processes, bedrock geology, climate and relative relief. This region has more metamorphosed and structurally consolidated rocks. Gneisses and garnetiferous mica schists are common. Most of the major valleys have been glaciated. High river gradients and enhanced river down-cutting resulted in the formation of deep canyons since glaciation. Agriculturally this region is of lesser importance. After the snow melts the mountains are covered with thick grasses and livestock like sheep, yak, and other mountain animals graze in this region. In the valleys, in summer, one crop a year can be harvested. The crops are potato, naked barley, buckwheat, and maize. Food grown here is not enough to support the population and more has to bring in.
Mid Hills Region:
This region includes a wide range of physiography. Its area is 4,350,300 ha. – about 29.5% of the area of the country. Mountain peaks range up to 2,000 m with narrow river valleys. The mountains are the Mahabharat Range. The geology consists of a complex of phyllite, schists, quartzite of Cambrian to Precambrian ages and granites and limestones of different ages. The climate ranges from warm subtropical to warm temperate. The higher peaks receive occasional snow whereas some lower parts receive occasional frost in winter, which causes damage to crops. Soils are extremely variable because of the differences in bedrock, geomorphology and microclimate. The southern margin mostly consists of a prominent belt of uplifted mountains known as Mahabharat Lekh. This belt is made up of deeply weathered granite, limestone, dolomite, shale, sandstone, slate and quartzite; is intensively cultivated and is home for more than 60% of the population. It produces most of its food, yet food is always transported from surplus regions to this area. Subtropical dense forest occupies the non-agricultural land.
This region lies at the foot of the Mahabharat Range. Its area is 1,888 600 ha: 12.7% of the total land. Altitudes range from 300 m to 1,800 m. The geology mainly consists of tertiary mudstone, sandstone, siltstones and conglomerate. Soils vary depending on the materials from which they are developed. There are several inner valleys or duns, which are densely populated. Because of alluvial deposition these valleys are very fertile. The landscape is very rugged and unstable, consisting of weakly consolidated Tertiary sediments with gentle to strongly sloping dip slope. Siwalik soils are unable to retain high precipitation which frequently occurs resulting in flash floods. Duns, a very important part of the Siwalik landscape, are structurally stable and sometimes, in the past, their outlets were blocked by rapid tectonic uplift of the Siwalik range. The major dun valleys are: Chitwan, Dang, Deokhuri, Surkhet, Trijuga and Kamala. Climate in the duns is modified by the regular occurrence of winter fogs; otherwise it is very dry.
The Terai Region:
The Terai, a flat extension of the southern Indo-Gangetic plain, occupies 2,142,200 ha, 14.4% of the country. Altitudes range from 66 m to 300 m. The region enjoys a warm sub-tropical climate and its alluvial soils are fertile. Wherever irrigation is available the land is intensively cultivated. It consists of recent and post-Pleistocene alluvial deposits forming a piedmont plain adjacent to the Himalayan ranges. Although the whole length of the Terai has a common geomorphology, it has obvious differences in land use due to presence of different land systems and land units. The obvious difference is the increased amount of rice cultivation in the eastern Terai indicating a greater proportion of higher quality alluvial soils and more availability of water/rainfall compared to the west.
The entire country lies within the latitude of the subtropical region but variation in elevation, slope rainfall, temperature and, to a large extent, soil and drainage determines the location of major forest types. The vegetation varies from tropical moist forests to alpine scrub.