Facts about Nepal

Capital: Kathmandu

Language: Nepali (official) & 20 other languages divided into numerous dialects. Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali is related to the Indian language, Hindi, and is spoken by about 90 percent of the population in either native or second language fluency. Many Nepalese in government and business also speak English.

Time Zone: 5 hrs 45 min ahead of GMT

Currency: 1 Nepalese Rupee (NR) divided into 100 paise  Exchange Rate: 74.5 NR = 1 US Dollar

International Calling Code: 977 + city codes (Kathmandu 1, Pokhara 61)

National Calendar: The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months: Baisakh, Jestha, Asadh, Shrawan, Bhadra, Aswin, Kartik, Marga, Poush, Phalgun, Chaitra.                 Saturday is the official weekly holiday.

Unification Day: 1768 (by Prithvi Narayan Shah - First King)

Constitution Birth: November 9, 1990

National Anthem: "May Glory Crown Our Illustrious Sovereign"

National Motto: "The Motherland Is Worth More than the Kingdom of Heaven."

National Bird: Danphe

National Flower: the spectacular rhododendron 'gras' in Nepali


Area Total: 140,800 km2, Area Land: 136,800 km2

Land use: arable land: 17%  permanent pastures: 15% 
forests and woodland: 42% 

Geography: landlocked; strategic location between India and Chinese-occupied Tibet; extremely diverse terrain ranging from fertile plains and broad valleys to containing eight of the world's ten highest peaks.

Climate: Nepal has a climate that ranges from subtropical summers with mild winters in the southern lowlands to an alpine climate with cool summers as well as severe winters in the mountains. Average annual precipitation decreases from 1,778 mm (70 inches) in the east to 899 mm (35 inches) in the west. 


Ethnic Groups: Among the earliest inhabitants were the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley and aboriginal Tharus in the southern Terai region. The Indo-Nepalese migrated from India and are ancestors of the Brahman and Chetri caste groups, which account for nearly 80% of the population. The Tibeto-Nepalese account for the remainder and trace their origins to central Asia and Tibet, including the Gurungs, Magars and Tamang in the west, Rais and Limbus in the east, and Sherpas and Bhotias in the north. 

Religion: 90% Hindu (official state religion) 5% Buddhist, 3% Muslim, 2% Other (Christian, indigenous & animistic practices) While Nepal is the only Hindu country in the world, Hinduism has synthesized with Buddhism in Nepal. As a result, Buddhist and Hindu shrines and festivals are respected and celebrated by all. 

Population: 23,200,000 (2001 census)

Population growth rate: 2.27% (2001 census) 

Kathmandu Valley Population Growth: 6%+ (2001 census)

Birth rate: 33.83 births/1,000 population (2000 est.) 

Death rate: 10.41 deaths/1,000 population (2000 est.) 

Infant mortality rate: 75.93 deaths/1,000 live births (2000 est.) 

Life expectancy at birth: total: 57.84 years 
male: 58.3 years, female: 57.35 years (2000 est.) 

Total fertility rate: 4.68 children born/woman (2000 est.) 

Sex Distribution: 49.5% male, 50.5% female (2001 census)

Distribution: 15% Urban, 85% Rural (2001 census)

Note: refugee issue over the presence in Nepal of approximately 96,500 Bhutanese refugees, 90% of whom are in 7 United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps 

Issues: Illegal trafficking in women is one of the biggest issues facing Nepal today. Lured by promises of employment in big Indian cities like New Delhi, Mumbia and Kolkatta, large numbers of Nepali young girls are smuggled by flesh traders and forced into prostitution. The flesh trade is made simpler due to the open border ensuring free movement of people. Nepali NGOs estimate that hundreds of thousands of Nepali women, mostly teenagers are forced to work in brothels in India.  The United Nations has expressed concern over the growing trafficking and urged the Nepali and Indian authorities to initiate action to curb this trade. 


GDP: $US 27.2 billion Rank: 77 / 191 countries (2000)

'Real' GDP per capita: $1,101 Rank: 159 / 191 (2000)

GDP Composition: agriculture: 41% industry: 22% services: 37%

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 40% of GDP. Industrial activity mainly involves the processing of agricultural produce including jute, sugarcane, tobacco and grain. Production of textiles and carpets has expanded recently and accounted for about 80% of foreign exchange earnings in the past three years. Apart from agricultural land and forests, exploitable natural resources are mica, hydropower and tourism. Agricultural production is growing by about five percent on average as compared with annual population growth of 2.5%. Since May 1991, the government has been moving forward with economic reforms particularly those that encourage trade and foreign investment.

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 remain poor due to the small size of the economy, its technological backwardness, its remoteness, its landlocked geographic location, and its susceptibility to natural disaster. The international community funds more than 60% of the development budget and more than 28% of total budgetary expenditures. Remittances from Nepalese working abroad, nearly $1 billion in 1997, continue to be a significant source of foreign exchange.

Economic Performance: Nepal experienced positive upswings in most economic sectors during the past fiscal year of 1999/2000, growth of just under 11%, and projected to achieve a growth rate of six% in 2000/01. Much of this growth was spawned by the growth in the agriculture sector. Inflation declined in the first half of 1999/2000 reaching 2% in Dec 2000 as food prices stabilized.

Trade: Exports rose 28.6% between 1999 and 2000 while imports also rose 27.64%, the largest rise in many years. 

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 11.8% (98/99 est.)

The agriculture sector in Nepal contributes 41% of the GDP and employs an estimated 81.2% of labor. The primary food crops produced are barley, coconuts, coffee, maize, potatoes, rice,
soybeans, sugar cane and wheat. The primary meat products are beef and veal, buffalo, chicken, duck, lamb and pork. The largest  agricultural exports in 1998 were sugar cane, lentils, pulses, oilseed and nutmeg, mace and cardamon. Agricultural exports in 1998 was $72.2 million, while agricultural imports in 1998 was $156.5

Labor force: 10 million (1996 est.) severe lack of skilled labor

Labor by occupation: agriculture 81%, services 16%, industry 3%

Unemployment rate: substantial underemployment (1999)


Nepal has no reserves of oil or gas, and only small coal reserves. Commercial energy consumption in Nepal is made up of hydroelectricity, coal, and oil products. Noncommercial energy sources, such as wood, animal wastes, and crop residues, account for a significant share of the country's total energy consumption. Nepal is a net energy importer. Oil is the main import and in 1998 it is estimated that Nepal imported 10,000 barrels of oil per day for products such as kerosene, diesel, jet fuel, gasoline.

Swift rivers flowing south through the Himalayas have massive hydroelectricity potential to service domestic needs and the growing demand from India. Hydropower exports are one of the major domestic resources which can fuel economic growth in Nepal, but development of these resources requires significant capital investment. Nepal's installed electric generating currently is around 300 megawatts (MW). Only a small share (around 1%) of Nepal's potential hydroelectric power capacity currently is being exploited. Potentially, Nepal could be a large net power producer and exporter and private investment in hydropower development is growing rapidly. Hydro projects currently under construction in Nepal should nearly double the country's total generating capacity over the next two years. At present, however, the country faces frequent power outages and shortages (yet another obstacle to economic growth), while only around 15% of the country's population has access to electricity.

Renewable energy, including micro-hydro, biomass, solar energy, etc. are gaining popularity in Nepal, particularly in remote regions of the country. Rural electrification is a main priority of Nepal's current Five-Year Plan. This will involve expanding the country's transmission and distribution grid, and possibly installing thousands of solar power units -- particularly in remote areas of the country -- over the next several years. 


Nepal's environmental challenges are largely a consequence of its dependence on fuel derived from wood, and the expansion of agricultural lands through non-sustainable development methods. This includes removing trees without measures for replanting, which results in widespread deforestation and soil erosion. Water pollution and contaminated water also presents human health risks.

Major natural hazards in Nepal include severe thunderstorms, flooding, landslides, drought, as well as famine resulting from the timing, intensity, and duration of the summer monsoons. Nepal is also an earthquake prone area due to the Himalayas.


Executive branch

Chief of State: King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev

Born in 1947, Gyanendra is the younger brother of the late King Birendra, who died in a shooting incident at the royal palace on 1 June 2001. He was crowned king on the 4th after Birendra's son, Dipendra, who had been declared king immediately following Birendra's death, died of injuries sustained during the palace shooting. Gyanendra is thought to be a more forceful man than the late Birendra, even, some say, an advocate of a return to absolute monarchy. However, shortly after his ascension to the throne, he has declared his support for the continuity of Nepal's constitutional monarchy.

Educated in India and Nepal, Gyanendra is well known in Nepal for his conservation work. He is also interested in developing the kingdom's tourism potential. A successful businessman, he has interests many ventures throughout the kingdom. Most will be divested in the near future to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

Gyanendra is married and has two children. His youngest son, Paras, who is now considered the crown prince, leads a controversial lifestyle and has been at the center of numerous DUI fatalities including a very popular singer who died last year.

The late King BIRENDRA Bir Bikram Shah Dev succeeded to the throne 31 January 1972 following the death of his father King MAHENDRA Bir Bikram Shah Dev, and crowned king 24 February 1975. The late Crown Prince DIPENDRA, King for two days while he lay in coma after the shooting incident, was thought to be the gunmen who massacred nine people in his family before turning the gun on himself.

Head of Government: Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba
Cabinet: appointed by the king on the recommendation of the PM

Legislative branch

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; 1/3 of the members elected every two yrs to serve six-yr terms) and the House of Representatives (205 seats; members elected by popular vote to serve five-yr terms) 

Judicial branch

Supreme Court (Sarbochha Adalat), chief justice is appointed by the king 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: 

Nepali Congress (Girija Prasad Koirala, party president) Communist Party of Nepal / United Marxist-Leninist  (Madhav Kumar Nepal, general secretary)Marxist-Leninist (Sahana Pradhan, chairman) Rastriya Prajantra Party (Surya
Bahadur Thapa); Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Gajendra Narayan Singh, president) Nepal Workers and Peasants Party (Narayan Man Bijukchhe, party chair) Rastriya Jana Morcha (Chitra
Bahadur K. C., chairman) Samyukta Janmorcha Nepal (Lila Mani Pokharel, general secretary)


Press laws restrict reporting on the monarchy and national security, and journalists have reportedly been detained after covering alleged police abuses and corruption. However, the press is considered to enjoy a fair amount of freedom. A range of publications, from Maoist to monarchist, carry criticism of the government. In January 2001, private FM stations were prohibited from airing news broadcasts, but the decision was contested. Radio broadcasting started in 1951, while TV did not begin until 1986. Only about 10% of the population has access to television - only 14% have electricity.

Newspapers: The Kathmandu Post (Eng) / Kantipur (Nep) The Rising Nepal (Eng) / Ghorkhapatra (Nep) state owned, Nepal's oldest newspaper, Space Time (Eng/Nep) and numerous other Nepali dailies. Nepali Times (Eng) Weekly

Television : Nepalese Television Corporation (NTV) and SpaceTime Network (began satellite transmission in June 2001)

Radio: Radio Nepal (state-run) Hits FM (commercial) and Himalayan Broadcasting Co. HBC 94 FM. Private FM radio stations include Radio Sagarmatha, Radio Kantipur, Image Channel, Music Channel, Classic, Good Night.

Sources: CountryWatch, BBC, IMF

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