The World Factbook (1990)/Nepal

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See regional map VIII


Total area: 140,800 km²; land area: 136,800 km²

Comparative area: slightly larger than Arkansas

Land boundaries: 2,926 km total; China 1,236 km, India 1,690 km

Coastline: none—landlocked

Maritime claims: none—landlocked

Climate: varies from cool summers and severe winters in north to subtropical summers and mild winter in south

Terrain: Tarai or flat river plain of the Ganges in south, central hill region, rugged Himalayas in north

Natural resources: quartz, water, timber, hydroelectric potential, scenic beauty; small deposits of lignite, copper, cobalt, iron ore

Land use: 17% arable land; NEGL% permanent crops; 13% meadows and pastures; 33% forest and woodland; 37% other; includes 2% irrigated

Environment: contains eight of world's 10 highest peaks; deforestation; soil erosion; water pollution

Note: landlocked; strategic location between China and India


Population: 19,145,800 (July 1990), growth rate 2.4% (1990)

Birth rate: 39 births/1,000 population (1990)

Death rate: 15 deaths/1,000 population (1990)

Net migration rate: 0 migrants/1,000 population (1990)

Infant mortality rate: 99 deaths/1,000 live births (1990)

Life expectancy at birth: 50 years male, 50 years female (1990)

Total fertility rate: 5.6 children born/woman (1990)

Nationality: noun—Nepalese (sing. and pl.); adjective—Nepalese

Ethnic divisions: Newars, Indians, Tibetans, Gurungs, Magars, Tamangs, Bhotias, Rais, Limbus, Sherpas, as well as many smaller groups

Religion: only official Hindu state in world, although no sharp distinction between many Hindu (about 88% of population) and Buddhist groups; small groups of Muslims and Christians

Language: Nepali (official); 20 languages divided into numerous dialects

Literacy: 20%

Labor force: 4,100,000; 93% agriculture, 5% services, 2% industry; severe lack of skilled labor

Organized labor: Teachers' Union, not officially recognized


Long-form name: Kingdom of Nepal

Type: constitutional monarchy, but King Birendra exercises control over multitiered system of government

Capital: Kathmandu

Administrative divisions: 14 zones (anchal, singular and plural); Bāgmatī, Bherī, Dhawalāgiri, Gandakī, Janakpur, Karnālī, Kosī, Lumbinī, Mahakalī, Mechī, Nārāyanī, Rāptī, Sagarmāthā, Setī

Independence: 1768, unified by Prithyi Narayan Shah

Constitution: 16 December 1962

Legal system: based on Hindu legal concepts and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

National holiday: Birthday of His Majesty the King, 28 December (1945)

Executive branch: monarch, chairman of the Council of State, Council of State, prime minister

Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (Rashtriya Panchayat)

Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Sarbochha Adalat)

Leaders: Chief of State—King BIRENDRA Bir Bikram Shah Dev (since 31 January 1972, crowned King 24 February 1985); Heir Apparent Crown Prince DIPENDRA Bir Bikram Shah Dev, son of the King (born 21 June 1971);

Head of Government—Prime Minister Marich Man Singh SHRESTHA (since 15 July 1986)

Political parties and leaders: all political parties outlawed but operate more or less openly; Nepali Congress Party (NCP), Ganesh Man Singh, K. P. Bhattarai, G. P. Koirala

Suffrage: universal at age 21

Elections: National Assembly—last held on 12 May 1986 (next to be held May 1991); results—all independents since political parties are officially banned; seats—(140 total, 112 elected) independents 112

Communists: Communist Party of Nepal (CPN); factions include V. B. Manandhar, Man Mohan Adhikari/Sahana Pradhan, Bharat Raj Joshi, Rai Majhi, Tulsi Lai, Krishna Raj Burma

Other political or pressure groups: numerous small, left-leaning student groups in the capital; Indian merchants in Tarai and capital; several small, radical Nepalese antimonarchist groups operating from north India


Diplomatic representation: Ambassador Mohan Man SAINJU; Chancery at 2131 Leroy Place NW, Washington DC 20008; telephone (202) 667-4550; there is a Nepalese Consulate General in New York; US—Ambassador Julia Chang BLOCH; Embassy at Pani Pokhari, Kathmandu; telephone [977] 411179 or 412718, 411601

Flag: 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


Overview: Nepal is among the poorest and least developed countries in the world with a per capita income of only $158. Real growth averaged 4% in the 1980s until FY89, when it plunged to 1.5% because of the ongoing trade/transit dispute with India. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing a livelihood for over 90% of the population and accounting for 60% of GDP and about 75% of exports. Industrial activity is limited, and what there is involves the processing of agricultural produce (jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain). Apart from agricultural land and forests, the only other exploitable natural resources are mica, hydropower, and tourism. Despite considerable investment in the agricultural sector, production in the 1980s has not kept pace with the population growth of 2.7%, which has led to a reduction in exportable surpluses and balance-of-payments difficulties. Economic prospects for the 1990s remain grim.

GDP: $2.9 billion, per capita $158; real growth rate 1.5% (FY89)

Inflation rate (consumer prices): 8.1% (FY89 est.)

Unemployment rate: 5%; underemployment estimated at 25-40% (1987)

Budget: revenues $296 million; expenditures $635 million, including capital expenditures of $394 million (FY89 est.)

Exports: $374 million (f.o.b., FY89 est.), but does not include unrecorded border trade with India; commodities—clothing, carpets, leather goods, grain; partners—India 38%, US 23%, UK 6%, other Europe 9% (FY88)

Imports: $724 million (c.i.f., FY89 est.); commodities—petroleum products 20%, fertilizer 11%, machinery 10%; partners—India 36%, Japan 13%, Europe 4%, US 1% (FY88)

External debt: $1.3 billion (December 1989 est.)

Industrial production: growth rate 4.5% (FY89 est.)

Electricity: 205,000 kW capacity; 535 million kWh produced, 30 kWh per capita (1989)

Industries: small rice, jute, sugar, and oilseed mills; cigarette, textiles, cement, brick; tourism

Agriculture: accounts for 60% of GDP and 90% of work force; farm products—rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, root crops, milk, buffalo meat; not self-sufficient in food, particularly in drought years

Illicit drugs: illicit producer of cannabis for the domestic and international drug markets

Aid: US commitments, including Ex-Im (FY70-88), $285 million; Western (non-US) countries, ODA and OOF bilateral commitments (1980-87), $1.8 billion; OPEC bilateral aid (1979-89), $30 million; Communist countries (1970-88), $273 million

Currency: Nepalese rupee (plural—rupees); 1 Nepalese rupee (NR) = 100 paisa

Exchange rates: Nepalese rupees (NRs) per US$1—28.559 (January 1990), 27.189 (1989), 23.289 (1988), 21.819 (1987), 21.230 (1986), 18.246 (1985)

Fiscal year: 16 July-15 July


Railroads: 52 km (1985), all 0.762-meter narrow gauge; all in Tarai close to Indian border; 10 km from Raxaul to Blrganj is government owned

Highways: 5,958 km total (1986); 2,645 km paved, 815 km gravel or crushed stone, 2,257 km improved and unimproved earth; also 241 km of seasonally motorable tracks

Civil air: 5 major and 11 minor transport aircraft

Airports: 38 total, 38 usable; 5 with permanent-surface runways; none with runways over 3,659 m; 1 with runways 2,440-3,659 m; 9 with runways 1,220-2,439 m

Telecommunications: poor telephone and telegraph service; fair radio communication and broadcast service; international radio communication service is poor; 30,000 telephones (1987); stations—4 AM, no FM, 1 TV; 1 Indian Ocean INTELSAT earth station

Defense Forces

Branches: Royal Nepalese Army, Royal Nepalese Army Air Service, Nepalese Police Force

Military manpower: males 15-49, 4,531,660; 2,347,412 fit for military service; 225,349 reach military age (17) annually

Defense expenditures: 2% of GDP, or $58 million (1989 est.)