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Quick Facts
Governmentparliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
CurrencyNepalese rupee (NPR)
Areatotal: 140,800 sq km
water: 4,000 sq km
land: 136,800 sq km
Population25,873,917 (July 2002 est.)
LanguageNepali (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)
ReligionHinduism 86.2%, Buddhism 7.8%, Islam 3.8%, other 2.2%
note: only official Hindu state in the world (1995)

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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. A maoist insugency, launched in 1996, has gained traction and is threatening to bring down the regime. Ten members of the royal family, including the king and queen, were massacred in a family dispute in 2001. In October 2002, the new king dismissed the prime minister and his cabinet for "incompetence" after they dissolved the parliament and were subsequently unable to hold elections because of the ongoing insurgency. The country is now governed by the king and his appointed cabinet until elections can be held at some unspecified future date.


Map of Nepal
Southern Asia, between China and India
Geographic coordinates 
28 00 N, 84 00 E
Map references 
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
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims 
none (landlocked)
varies from cool summers and severe winters in north to subtropical summers and mild winters in south
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 agreements 
party to: Biodiversity, Climate 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


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/AIDS 
34,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths 
2,500 (1999 est.)
noun: Nepalese (singular and plural)
adjective: Nepalese
Ethnic groups 
Brahman, Chetri, Newar, Gurung, Magar, Tamang, Rai, Limbu, Sherpa, Tharu, and others (1995)
Hinduism 86.2%, Buddhism 7.8%, Islam 3.8%, other 2.2%
note: only official Hindu state in the world (1995)
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)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 27.5%
male: 40.9%
female: 14% (1995 est.)


Country name 
conventional long form: Kingdom of Nepal
conventional short form: Nepal
Government type 
parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy
Administrative divisions 
14 zones (anchal, singular and plural); Bagmati, Bheri, Dhawalagiri, Gandaki, Janakpur, Karnali, Kosi, Lumbini, Mahakali, Mechi, Narayani, Rapti, Sagarmatha, Seti
1768 (unified by Prithvi Narayan Shah)
National holiday 
Birthday of King GYANENDRA, 7 July (1946)
9 November 1990
Legal system 
based on Hindu legal concepts and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
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 Lokendra Bahadur CHAND (since 11 October 2002)
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 leaders 
Maoist guerrilla-based insurgency; numerous small, left-leaning student groups in the capital; several small, radical Nepalese antimonarchist groups
International organization participation 
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 US 
chief of mission: Ambassador Michael E. MALINOWSKI
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 - 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.
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 percentage share 
lowest 10%: 3%
highest 10%: 30% (1995-96)
Distribution of family income - Gini index 
37 (1995-96 )
Inflation rate (consumer prices) 
Labor force 
10 million
note: severe lack of skilled labor (1996 est.)
Labor force - by occupation 
agriculture 81%, services 16%, industry 3%
Unemployment rate 
47% (2001 est.)
revenues: $665 million
expenditures: $1.1 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (FY99/00 est.)
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: 10%
hydro: 90%
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
$757 million f.o.b., but does not include unrecorded border trade with India (FY00/01 est.)
Exports - commodities 
carpets, clothing, leather goods, jute goods, grain
Exports - partners 
India 48%, US 26%, Germany 11% (FY00/01)
$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)
Nepalese rupee (NPR)
Currency code 
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


Telephones - main lines in use 
236,816 (January 2000)
Telephones - mobile cellular 
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)
840,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations 
1 (plus 9 repeaters) (1998)
130,000 (1997)
Internet country code 
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) 
6 (2000)
Internet users 
60,000 (2002)


total: 59 km
narrow gauge: 59 km 0.762-m gauge
note: all in Kosi close to Indian border (2001)
total: 13,223 km
paved: 4,073 km
unpaved: 9,150 km (April 1999)
Ports and harbors 
45 (2001)
Airports - with paved runways 
total: 9
over 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 7 (2002)
Airports - with unpaved runways 
total: 36
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 28 (2002)


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 service 
males age 15-49: 3,369,454 (2002 est.)
Military manpower - reaching military age annually 
males: 292,589 (2002 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure 
$51.5 million (FY01)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP 
1% (FY01)

Transnational Issues

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