Nepal is a country that is sandwiched between India and China, the two countries in the world that have a population in excess of one billion people each. Nepal, in contrast, has a population nearing 25 million people in the year 2000.
In terms of area Nepal also has the disadvantage. Both India and China are many times the size of Nepal, which covers roughly 141 thousand square kilometers.
There is, however, one area in which Nepal reigns supreme in the world. Mount Everest, with 8,850 meters the highest mountain in the world, is located within the borders of Nepal.
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 Terai, a low, flat, fertile land adjacent to the border of India; second, the forested Churia foothills and the Inner Terai zone, rising from the Terai plain to the rugged Mahabharat Range; third, the mid-mountain region between the Mahabharat Range and the Great Himalayas; and, fourth, the Great Himalayan Range, rising to more than 8,800 meters.
Nepal's climate, influenced by elevation as well as by its location in a subtropical latitude, ranges from subtropical monsoon conditions in the Terai, through a warm temperate climate in the mid-mountain region, to cool temperate conditions in the higher parts of mountains between 2,000 and 3,500 meters, to an Alpine climate at even higher altitudes. At the highest altitudes the temperature is always below zero and the surface covered by snow and ice.
Rainfall is ample in the eastern portion of the Terai (which receives from 1,800 to 1,900 millimeters a year at Biratnagar) and in the mountains, but the western portion of Nepal (where from 750 to 900 millimeters a year fall at Mahendranagar) is drier.
Nepal is a melting pot of different ethnic groups, some of Indo-Aryan ancestry, like the Pahari, the Newar and the Tharus of the Terai, some of Tibeto-Nepalese ancestry, like the Tamang, Rai, Limbu, Bhutia (including the Sherpa) and Sunwar of the north and east of Nepal, and the Magar and Gurung of west-central Nepal.
The large majority of Nepalese people is Hindu, but a small percentage follows Buddhism or other religious faiths.
Since the new constitution of November 9th, 1990, Nepal is a constitutional monarchy, much, in theory, like the Netherlands. It will take some time, however, for the government and the populace to adjust to this new form of government. Like in most cases where a transition is made from one system to another, in the transition phase people long for the old days when everything was, if not democratic, at least effective and clear and often in most cases better for parts of the populace. This is basically where Nepal finds itself now, and it is reflected in the increasing unrest brought on by the frequent strikes that are called by political and other parties.
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This is an adaptation of one of the chapters in a report I wrote for my traineeship in Nepal
CIA World Fact Book: http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/indexgeo.html
Numerous other sites on Nepal