Feb 23, Kathmandu: Maha Shivaratri is let loose upon republican Nepalis. Almost half of Shiva's devotees are under intoxication today. The police too are acting lenient on the drug takers.
About 300,000 devotees from Nepal, India and many other countries are visiting the holy temple of Pashupatinath at Kathmandu today. Each of them will at least once taste what is called a sacred prasada of Shiva, Marijuana and experience how it feels when intoxicated the Shiva way.
Thousands of naga babas (the naked fakirs) from across Nepal and India have been camping around the Pashupatinath premises for the last one week. Mesmerized by the lunacy and freakiness of the naga babas, the tourists and visitors are all thronging them for taking photos and testing marijuana.
Here are some of the interesting shots taken today:
Maha Shivaratri is let loose upon republican Nepalis
Look and Gaze Correspondent, Feb 23, Kathmandu: Maha Shivaratri is let loose upon republican Nepalis. Almost half of Shiva's devotees are under intoxication today. The police too are acting lenient on the drug takers.
About 300,000 devotees from Nepal, India and many other countries are visiting the holy temple of Pashupatinath at Kathmandu today. Each of them will at least once taste what is called a sacred prasada of Shiva, Marijuana and experience how it feels when intoxicated the Shiva way.
Thousands of naga babas (the naked fakirs) from across Nepal and India have been camping around the Pashupatinath premises for the last one week. Mesmerized by the lunacy and freakiness of the naga babas, the tourists and visitors are all thronging them for taking photos and testing marijuana.
Mind it, I too am writing this under sort of intoxication. Here are some of the interesting shots taken today:
Koirala wishes for decentralized federalism
Feb 14, 2009, Look and Gaze Correspondent: What appears to be a huge shift from his earlier position, former Prime Minister of Nepal and President of the second largest party Nepali Congress, Girija Prasad Koirala spoke out his wish that he wants to see the country federalized as per the principle of "decentralization" which entails a considerable degree of central governance.
"We are good at what we have been doing so far" Koirala said, "the Parliamentary system of democracy is the most appropriate system for us. We failed in the past because we could not properly implement the decentralization policy, which led to serious dissatisfaction among people.
Referring to the Swedish federalism, which he says serves as the best model, Koirala stressed that Nepal will be better off adopting a decentralized governance under federal structure which entails central, regional and village level governments.
Warning the leaders about the dangers of federalism, Koirala said, "This is a tight rope walking, as there is the possibility of safely crossing the risk or falling in the middle", he said. "It can bring to us good results as well as bad ones". He, however, stressed on the need for unity among the political parties represented in the constituent assembly for walk down the tight rope for better results.
An old political hawk who witnessed coming and going of four dynastic kings and their constitutions, Koirala said the new constitution should be so simple and clear that a layperson like himself could understand it. National integrity and sovereignty should never be compromised at any cost, he added.
Koirala also expressed his disappointment over the Maoists tendency to go astray the agreed upon sets of actions set out while signing the 12-point understanding. "When students don't perform well, it is the teachers who are generally blamed", he cracked a joke indicating the Maoists' disobedience to their teacher. Koirala was speaking at an International Conference on Constitution Making in Nepal in Kathmandu. (By Kamal Raj Sigdel)
By Rosa Brooks, Special to the Los Angeles Times
Brother, can you spare $22 billion?
Back in the Great Depression, the song "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" epitomized all the hurt that was going around:
Once I built a railroad, I made it run, made it race against time.
Once I built a railroad; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a dime?
There's been some inflation since the 1930s. Today's panhandlers don't humbly ask passersby for a dime. Instead, they go to Congress and ask for a spare $22 billion or so.
That's what General Motors and Chrysler demanded Tuesday on Capitol Hill, in a form of panhandling that felt more like a stickup: "Give us another $22 billion or hundreds of thousands of autoworkers get the ax!"
If the iconic images of the Depression were of individuals -- a scruffy child in castoff clothes, a hollow-eyed mother in a bread line -- the iconic image of the current economic crisis is likely to be that of the ravenous corporation insisting, every month or so, it needs just a few billion dollars more.
It's not that the crisis has produced no needy individuals. Early indicators suggest a sharp rise in hunger, homelessness and every variety of human suffering. But don't think Congress is going to hand out huge wads of cash to the hungry or the newly homeless. In America, we only bail out banks and big corporations.
It's a sorry truth of modern human psychology that the more you already have, the more people will give you. In a classic experiment, well-dressed researchers posed as commuters who had lost their wallets and asked passersby for $20 to buy a train ticket home. Complete strangers gladly parted with large sums. In contrast, when the same researchers posed as homeless people asking for money to buy food, most either got a rude brushoff or loose change.
The same holds true for charitable giving. Most philanthropic money goes to institutions that are already wealthy (universities with large endowments, for instance) or arts organizations with largely affluent "clients." Only a tiny fraction goes to organizations that provide social services to the needy.
Apparently taking these insights to heart, many of the nation's largest corporations and banks continue to hit up the government for trillions in taxpayer dollars. No surprise that they're mostly getting what they ask for. So far, the government (that means you, girls and boys!) is on the hook for an estimated $8.7 trillion in assorted bailouts. There's $700 billion for the TARP, $300 billion for Citigroup, $17.4 billion already handed out to automakers, plus a lot of other bailout programs, most of which you've probably never heard of.
As they say on the Hill, "a billion here, a billion there ... pretty soon you're talking about real money." How real? That $8.7 trillion is more than the U.S. government spent on the Louisiana Purchase, the New Deal, World War II, the Marshall Plan and the Vietnam War -- combined.
The theory is that bailing out banks, the auto industry and other corporate giants will trickle down to the rest of us.
Too bad it doesn't seem to be working. Those bank loans that were supposed to start flowing as a result of the TARP? They didn't. The 20 biggest banks that received federal bailout funds gave out, on average, less mortgage and business loan money in the last quarter of 2008 than in previous quarters. Credit-card lending was up slightly, but those same banks also jacked up interest rates. And there's little comfort for those concerned about their retirement funds: On Tuesday, the Dow plummeted to pre-bailout levels.
Don't expect the auto industry bailout to produce better results. Detroit was in trouble before the economic crisis began because it couldn't produce reliable, efficient cars that people actually wanted to buy. Its restructuring proposals do little to change that. The bailouts seem to be so much taxpayer money going into a black hole, and the business plans the companies filed Tuesday anticipate that they'll need billions more.
What if the government focused on bailing out ordinary Americans instead? Divvy up the $8.7-trillion estimated bailout price tag and Uncle Sam could send every single household a check for nearly $80,000. Who knows -- maybe ordinary Americans would have put that money to good use, buying goods, starting businesses, sending kids to college.
I know, that's just a naive fantasy. Unlike the American bank, the American family isn't "too big to fail." So let's keep giving handouts to those downtrodden banks and corporations, and work on some updated lyrics to the old song:
Once I built a bank, it was such fun -- sold credit default swaps by the million.
Once I built a bank; now it's done. Brother, can you spare a billion?
Brooks is a professor at the Georgetown University Law Center
(c) 2009, Los Angeles Times
This editorial appeared in Thursday's Los Angeles Times:
The Pakistani government's announcement this week that it has cut a deal with Taliban leaders to trade peace for the imposition of Islamic law in the bucolic Swat Valley region is a worrisome development. The government appears to be ceding control over part of the North-West Frontier Province less than 100 miles from the capital of Islamabad. This would diminish the state's authority and legitimize militants who have been torching girls schools, beheading police and assassinating civilian members of the ruling Awami National Party, driving out hundreds of thousands of terrified residents in a little more than a year.
On the militants' side, the deal was crafted by Muslim cleric Maulana Sufi Mohammed, but the gunmen led by his more radical son-in-law have yet to sign on. Government officials argue that the accord will bring peace to the region without violating the constitution, which already requires that all laws comply with Islamic law, and that it will free up the military to focus on other areas, such as the contested region under tribal rule along the border with Afghanistan. Furthermore, they say it is a way to drive a wedge between the Taliban in Swat and groups in the tribal areas that also serve as sanctuary for the Taliban from Afghanistan and al-Qaida.
In principle, the government is right to pursue negotiations with combatants and to distinguish between different insurgent groups. Unfortunately, the Pakistani government is negotiating from a position of weakness. The army lacks counterinsurgency capability and has not been able to beat back the Taliban's Swat offensive, launched in November 2007. The provincial government is shaky and, therefore, lacks strong backing from a population trying to navigate between the warring sides. Rather than draw moderate insurgents away from their radical brethren and into the country's established political system, this deal will allow the radicals to control Swat under a separate legal system, which threatens the integrity of the state. It does not demand that the militants disarm or formally denounce other insurgent groups, and it does not hold them accountable for the unlawful killings and other abuses
Meanwhile, there are many risks. The calm would allow the insurgents time to rearm and regroup. What happens if they start shooting again -- who will enforce the cease-fire? With U.S. air attacks putting pressure on the tribal areas and President Obama sending 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan, other insurgent groups could seek sanctuary in the newly quiet Swat region. Moreover, this deal sends a message to them that there's no cost for serious human rights violations. Rather, they might keep fighting for a similar deal and control over more Pakistani territory
'The Living Himalayas'; Lasting fuel to Prosperous New Nepal
By Krishna Prasad Sigdel
The enchanting beauties of the Himalayas, their bracing climate and the soothing green that envelopes you leaves nothing more to be desired. I wonder whether their scenery and the climate are to be surpassed, if qualified, by any of the beauty spots of the world.
- Mahatma Gandhi
The abovementioned witty saying of the bygone spiritual and political leader of the 1900's, Mahatma Gandhi, attest to the value of the mighty Himalayas. The Himalayas - the magnificence of geology; is stand synonymously to the living forces. The Himalayas is a source of power and symbol of sacredness - a continuous source of inspiration as well as life in itself. The Himalayas is recognized for its ecosystem services to the Asian region as well as to the world at large for maintaining slope stability, regulating hydrological integrity, sustaining high levels of biodiversity and human wellbeing.
Preamble to the Himalayas
'Himalayas' is a terminology from Sanskrit and means "abode of snow". The Himalayas is one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world. Its revolution can be traced to the Jurassic Era (80 million years ago). The Himalayan range was created from powerful earth movements that occurred as the Indian plate pressed against the Eurasian continental plate. The Himalayan Mountains, at the front of this continental collision, are still forming, growing and assuming complex profiles.
The arc shaped mountain range in between the Indus River in the northwest to the Brahmaputra River in the east is called 'The Himalayas'. The Himalayan range is approximately 2,400 km length and averaging 320 to 400 km in width. It covers an area of approximately 750,000 sq. km in South Asia. It has been divided into two regions- the Eastern Himalaya and the Western Himalaya.
The Himalayas is one of the few remaining isolated and inaccessible areas in the world today. Though still not confirmed, the Yeti (Abominable Snowman) is believed to have been living somewhere in these mountains.
The population in the Himalayan region is nearly about 40 million. The main occupation of the people in the Himalayan region is agriculture and animal husbandry. The unfavorable geo-structure of this region has crippled the life of common people and has hindered the development of this region itself. The Himalayas is too big for anyone to study.
Now the question is on the epithet, the Living, added before the Himalayas. It is obviously true, those lofty mountains, known the world over as 'The Himalayas' have no life, even though they support to life providing goods and services. Therefore, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) named it - 'The Living Himalayas' with honor. How they are supporting to the living creatures of the world and where the heart 'beat' of the life is blowing in the Himalayas is a major concern to all the dwellers of this global village. The following points will explicate the liveliness of the mountains.
The Himalayas: Center of Origin of Religion, Culture and People's Civilization
People have lived in the mountains of the Himalayas for thousands of years. The Himalayas, due to its large size, have been a natural barrier to the movement of people for tens of thousands of years. In particular, this has prevented intermingling of people from the Indian subcontinent with people from China and Mongolia, causing significantly different languages and customs between these regions. Himalayas was also a witness to the Indus Valley Civilization, the oldest Indian Civilization.
Therefore, the Himalayas is not merely a range of mountains; it epitomizes a people's civilization identity that goes back to the dawn of history. The Himalayan peaks are sacred in both Hinduism and Buddhism. The ethnic groups living in remote valleys have generally conserved their traditional cultural identities. There are more than 60 ethnic castes, 70 different dialects and 11 languages in Nepal. They have their own unique cultural heritage, language, and indigenous knowledge.
Himalayas: Freshwater Towers of the Earth
Mountains play a central role in collecting and storing water- the most important element for life on earth. The higher regions of the Himalayas are snowbound throughout the year and they form the sources for several large perennial rivers. The Himalayan range encompasses about 15,000 glaciers, which store about 12,000 km3 of freshwater. The 70 km long Siachen Glacier at the India-Pakistan border is the second longest glacier in the world outside the polar region. Some of the world's major rivers, the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, and the Yangtze originate from the Himalayas. Around 1.3 billion people live in the basin of these river systems. Careful management of the sources of water such as the Himalayas has become a global priority in a world moving towards a water crisis in 21st century.
The Himalayas have a profound effect on the climate of the Indian subcontinent and the Tibetan plateau. The towering Himalayas play a critical role, blocking the northwesterly advances of moist, tropical air from the Bay of Bengal, and ultimately leading to its conversion to rain in the summer. The water yield for a given input of rainfall from the mountains, like Himalayan watersheds, depends on the quality of its forests, agricultural yield, and conservation of wetlands and provides such innumerable ecological benefits. Hence 'Men, Monsoon and Mountains' are intractably tied up with each other.
The Himalayas: Biological Hot Spots
Deforestation in the Himalayas has been the major concern today. We are left with just 25 percent of the original vegetation. The region is physiographically diverse and ecologically rich in natural and crop-related biodiversity, so it has been taken as a globally significant region for genetic, species and ecosystems diversity. It represents the important hot spots and high levels of endemism in South Asia. It includes two endemic bird areas and several centers for plant diversity. The Eastern Himalaya is designed as one of the WWF 'Global 2000' eco-regions and declared as a 'Gift to the Earth'.
About 15 percent of the land area of the hotspot is under some form of protection in the Himalaya region. There are 38 major ecosystems found in the highlands. Similarly, of the estimated 10,000 species of plants in the Himalaya hotspot, about 3,160 are endemic. In addition, nearly 980 birds and about 300 mammal species have been recorded in the hotspots. In is estimated that nearly about one third of all mountain animals live in the Himalayas. It is a habitat of the world's endangered flagship species, like Tiger, Asian Rhinos, Elephants, Wild Buffalo, Snow Leopard as well as Red Panda, Musk Deer and so on.
Himalayas; a Repertoire of Natural Herbs
A large proportion of the Himalayan flora is medicinal and it makes the Himalayas a globally significant centre for the medicinal plants. It has been estimated that the Himalayan region harbors over 10,000 species of medicinal and aromatic plants, supporting the livelihoods of about 600 million people living in the area. Such natural herbs provide basic healthcare for millions of citizens and possess immense cultural and economic values. Nepal Himalayas is worth about 2,000 species with medicinal and aromatic values, and more than 1,400 of these are known to be used locally particularly as medicines.
Himalayas and Tourism Industry
The Himalayan mountain system is the planet's highest physiographic location and home to the nine of the ten highest peaks of the world. Moreover, the Himalayan system includes over 100 mountains exceeding 7,200 meters. There are about 90 peaks in Nepal's Himalayas over 7,000 meters and eight giants exceeding 8,000 meters, including earth's highest, Mount Everest and third highest, Kanchenjunga.
Since 1950, tourism has emerged as a major growth industry in the Himalayas. With its exotic wildlife and outstanding natural beauty, it has always attracted travelers and tourist across the world. One million visitors come to the Himalayas each year for mountain trekking, mountain climbing, wildlife viewing, river rafting, and pilgrimages to major Hindu and Buddhist sacred places. For the sustainability of the tourism industry in Nepal, the concept of ecotourism has been practiced.
The aforementioned facts support that the Himalayas has life and billions of people are dependent on that directly/indirectly. However, economic changes and syn-anthropic onslaughts peril the ecology of the Himalayas. Over exploitation of natural herbs, illegal poaching of wildlife, drying-up of springs, drought, extinction of species, unscientific irrational slash and burn agricultural practices and increased forest fires are major environmental risks in the Himalayan regions. Such an environmental degradation in the upper region affects not only the upper region but also invites environmental consequences in the low land areas.
The Himalayas: Impacts of Climate Change
The Himalayas is one of the world's geologically most active areas. Eyewitness say mountain glaciers have served as an indicator of climate change, advancing and receding with long-term changes in temperature and precipitation. Twenty, out of 2,380 glaciers in Nepal are in the endangered list. According to a UN climate change report, the Himalayan glaciers that are the sources of Asia's biggest rivers could disappear by 2035 as temperature rises. As a result, India, Tibet, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar could experience floods followed by droughts in coming decades.
The rising temperatures are threatening a tremendous loss of biological diversity in this ecologically sensitive region. The altitudinal shift in vegetation belts is expected to be around 80m-200m per decade, which threatens both biodiversity as well as livelihoods of mountain people.
The Himalayas: Biodiversity Conservation Initiatives
For the past eight decades, modern conservation practices have been initiated in the Himalayan region. In the 1920's wildlife sanctuaries were established in Assam, India. Similarly, Chitwan national park was established in 1973 in Nepal. As early as the 1960s, Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park was established in Bhutan as well. In the northeastern Himalayan states of India, a network of protected areas was established in the 1970s and 1980s. Now conservation practice has been shifted to landscapes level conservation. Terai Arc Landscape Program and Sacred Himalayan Landscape Program are major Transboundary and landscape level conservation of conservation practices in Nepal, where biodiversity has been conserved based on their biological corridor. Apart from these, biodiversity has been conserved through the concept of 'conservation of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) sites' holding populations of globally threatened or geographically restricted species. Another important initiative is the plan to create a tri-national peace park among Nepal, India and Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Nepal has been working to promote people's participation in conservation. The Annapurna, Manaslu and Kanchenjunga Conservation Areas have been run through community-based biodiversity management practice. Moreover, community forestry program has been flourishing in the Himalayan region of Nepal.
Regional Coordination for Sustainable Conservation of the Himalayas
Economic, environmental, political and social marginality have made the mountain lives more complicated and vulnerable. Developmental activities are nominal at the mountain regions. Plus, the present trend of development in this region is unsustainable.
The Himalayas is common property of all the people of this Global village for it is one of the most important life-support systems in the entire Asia. Therefore, international as well as regional coordination and cooperation is prerequisite for the sustainable management of the Himalayan resources. Only establishing protected areas, national parks, bird sanctuaries, Ramsar sites, and World Heritage sites, covering critical eco-regions and transboundary areas are not the solutions for the serious environmental issues. All the countries of the Himalayan region have to develop a common future strategy for mountain biodiversity conservation.
Since most of the area of the Himalayas is in Nepal, India and Bhutan, the people of these countries will be affected more by the ongoing environmental degradation in the Himalayas. The governments of India, Nepal, and Bhutan should be conscious and integrated environment management programs should be launched. ICIMOD, The Mountain Institute, National Trust for Nature Conservation, Ministry of Forest and Soil Conservation, Ministry of Environment, Science and Technology are working with some programs.
Considering the need of instant actions for the conservation of the Eastern Himalayas, WWF- the global conservation organization, has launched the 'New Living Himalayas Program' in the eastern Himalayas in a joint collaboration of WWF Nepal, WWF India and WWF Bhutan. Governments of those nations, conservation partners, local community should cooperative with WWF in this connection.
Living Himalayas inevitable to the Prosperous New Nepal
The Himalayas is intricately interwoven with Nepal and shares approximately the entire landscape of the country. Nepal stands at the cross-point of western Himalaya and Eastern Himalaya. Where, the Eastern Himalaya dominates at the scale of about two-third. Development in the Himalayan region, therefore, has to have a different approach - a sustainable approach, to conserve the spatial upland as well as the down land ecosystems. To fulfill the dual objectives- integrated sustainable mountain development and promotion of the local community's livelihood - judicious planning and sound implementation of program are prerequisites. Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal, says that 'we have a good plan on paper. Had we been able to implement our plan strongly, we could have reached a higher level'. Hence, in New Nepal, the nation should focus on good governance, proper implementation of policy and programs and effective monitoring mechanism.
Presently, Nepal is in a process of radical change with new vision and new statute. At this moment, while adapting to the federal political system, the nation should understand the geographical importance of the nation, importance of the natural resources and the relationship between spatial upland and down land regions. Even though, 'The Living Himalayas program' is an initiative of WWF, it is the voice of the Himalayas and its communities. It is high time we understood the gravity of the environmental issues facing the Himalayas. The Himalayas is our pride, and has stood synonymously to our life, culture and future. Nepal is a Himalayan country, thus sustainable utilization of the resources from the Himalayas determines the economic revolution of the country. The central theme of 'The Living Himalayas' is to revitalize the existing resources as the lasting fuel to a prosperous New Nepal'.
The Living Himalayas: Lasting fuel for a Sustainable Nepal
By Krishna Prasad Sigdel
The Himalayas are the youngest and the largest mountains in the world. Among the global mountain systems, the Himalayas are the most complex and diversified ecological regions. Spreading at a length of about 2,500 Km from Bhutan in the East to Afghanistan in the West they separate the northern part of the Asian continent from South Asia. The Himalayas that cover 17 percent of Nepal's territory in the north function as a natural border with the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The nature has endowed these Himalayan ranges with most precious resources like fresh water, flora and fauna. These mountain ranges perform one of the most important life-support systems in the entire Asia. However, those lofty mountains that have the potential of luring thousands of visitors from around the world have themselves been neglected. Due to unsustainable practices of development across the planet, the Himalayas are now under pressure. They are in fact dying. This has been a matter of serious concerns for many ecologists and conservationists. With these concerns in mind, some conservation organizations have begun a campaign with the slogan, 'The Living Himalayas' to revitalize the dying Himalayas.
The rugged snow-capped peaks remained a mystery as well as attraction for adventurous mountaineers for centuries. It was only with the first ascent of Late Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgey Sherpa to the world's highest peak, Mt. Everest that Nepal was introduced to the world. Since then, with the increasing media publicity, the number of foreign travelers coming to Nepal to visit these Himalayas gradually increased.
The Himalayas, which cover a quarter of Nepal's geography, play a crucial role for the entire social and economic development of the nation. The mountains are regarded as a meeting ground for different races, different varieties of culture and religion. The Himalayas are water towers of the nation. The innumerable glaciers and glacial lakes are the source of fresh water in Nepal. Most of the rivers and rivulets are originated from the glacial lakes and the Himalayas. Similarly, the Himalayas are the Mecca of tourists. Nepalese tourism industry is basically mountain region-based. So far, 300 mountains are open for expedition in Nepal. Due to its uniqueness in the diversity of geography, climate, and eco-system, this region has been taken as a favorable habitat to wild life species too. The Himalayas are one of the world's threatened biodiversity hotspots designated by WWF. Likewise, this region is rich in different edible and medicinal plants and traditional knowledge for the utilization of such plant species incurred upon the indigenous ethnic groups.
Despite its rich biological and cultural resources, the region is under-developed. The unfavorable geo-structure of this region has crippled the life of common people and has hindered the development of this region itself. However, the communities at the local level rely on the natural resources for their livelihoods. Collection of herbs has fulfilled the subsistence needs of poor mountainous communities; they have fulfilled the needs of firewood and fodder harvesting the trees, some communities are also involved traditionally in unscientific slash and burn agricultural practices.
As a result of the depletion of the natural resources, harsh climates, inaccessible geographical location, scarcity of food and sources of energy, lack of the basic facilities like education, health, communication, roads/bridges, combined with political and social marginality, the mountain life has been made more complicated and vulnerable. Likewise, most of the mountain communities are below the poverty line. Developmental activities are nominal at the mountain regions. Besides, present trend of the development in this region is unsustainable.
Mountain lives in Nepal are characterized by poverty and deprivation. Hardship is what the people in the region face at every aspect of their lives. Presently Nepal is in a stage of revolutionary political transformation. In this occasion, we should make not only future plans but also should analyze the past activities. It is a high time to find out the sustainable solutions on the following issues- major causes behind the degradation of the mountain environment and mitigation measures, ways of sustainable mountain development and so on.
A major ecological principle states that components of the ecosystem are interrelated in nature therefore any change in one component is bound to change the states of all other components. For example, deforestation leads to increased floods, increased soil erosion at one side and increased silting of water bodies at the other, drying-up of springs, disappearance of species, and atmospheric loading of carbon dioxide -hence global warming, climate change and increased glacier-melting rate. Finally, it has resulted adverse impact on the entire ecosystem.
Presently, Nepal is in a development process with new vision and new statute. In the preliminary phase of forming new statute of Nepal, the nation should understand the geographical importance of the nation and the relation between upland and down land regions. Development in the mountains, therefore, has to have a different approach - a sustainable approach, to conserve the Himalayan ecosystems and prevent the ecosystem of the down land. In the same way, judicious planning and sound implementation of program are prerequisites for integrated sustainable mountain development. Anil Manandhar, Country Representative of WWF Nepal, says that 'we have a good plan on paper. Had we been able to implement our plan strongly, we could have reached a higher level'. As the solution to the problem, we should focus on good governance, proper implementation of policy and programs and effective monitoring mechanism.
Nepal is a Himalayan country; there was a remarkable representation of the members elected from the mountainous region in the previous parliament as well as in the present constitutional assembly. However, past trends show that they are applying 'Use and Throw' principle to the mountainous region. Not only the members of the parliament, but also other strata of the society have used to the mountainous region, as a means of getting remote area benefit, in their academic as well as professional career. Nevertheless, after getting benefit rarely they have returned and cared to the mountain development.
The Himalayas are rich in resources, but nobody has considered it. Environmental degradation in the mountain region would be disastrous not only for the local populace, but also for downstream inhabitants. Such negative impacts of unplanned development, insensitive to mountain specificities, are already becoming common, the most frequent being the regular incidences of landslides, river obstructions and flash floods in the mountain and recurrent floods in the plains. Depositing the silt causes a great damage in the Tarai region, for example as we can see in the catchments areas of Koshi River, eastern Nepal.
There are several political parties as well as some of the armed groups in the Terai region agitating and demanding 'One Madhes, One Province', since past two years. But no one has demanded 'One Himal, one Province' until the date. Presently Nepal is in the stage of radical political change. Nepal is going to adapt 'federal republic political system'. It seems that the expressions of the political leader as well as general people from the Madhesh (Plain Terai region of Nepal at the southern boarder), indicates that they are not willing to accept the Himalayas in their province. They have seen only the plain surface and fertile land of the terai. Never they have analyzed the interrelationship between mountain and terai. Depute director general of ICIMOD, Dr Madhav Karki says that 'In the context of Nepal, the Terai is a son and the Mountain a mother'.
In 2008, a sudden burst of Koshi dam caused a heavy loss of lives and property in the riparian areas in Tarai. After the catastrophe, the Government of India has shown interest to work for the conservation of the Churia region of eastern region of Nepal only but has not prioritized, for the conservation of the other mountain region, though, mountains are extended from east to west facing towards India. Possibly no one cares for the timely mitigation, before natural calamities.
Juddha Bahadur Gurung, member secretary of NTNC says that 'The Himalayas are common property of the world. Though, some part of the Himalayas including Mt. Everest is in Nepal, impact on the mountainous region, affects to the entire world. Honorable Minister of Forest and Soil Conservation, Kiran Gurung also agrees to this fact and further adds that 'the temperature is increasing by 0.06 degree Celsius each year. It will certainly affect the mountainous region, resulting in a terrible natural disaster in the near future'.
These events have arrived at a consensus that mountains would require specific approaches and resources for sustaining livelihood needs and improving the quality of life. This would require an integrated approach, which gives due consideration to closely intertwined aspects of human socio- cultural/socioeconomic systems and natural ecosystem components/processes. Anil Manandhar says that 'we should consider not only biodiversity but also livelihood, cultures, indigenous knowledge and social structures collectively while working in the mountain region'.
Finally, the inherent fragility as well as the increased vulnerability of the Himalayas due to human-induced ecological impacts has caused to the symptoms of ecological ill-health in this region. It will not only jeopardize the existence of such almighty Himalayas but also affect the lives of million people and the entire ecosystem. Considering the need of instant deed for the conservation of the Eastern Himalayas, WWF, the global conservation organization, has launched the 'New Living Himalayas Program'. Even though, it is an initiative of WWF, may be an illustration to the Nepalese communities too. The new 'Living Himalayas Program' of WWF, is a new paradigm in conservation of the mountain regions.
The major political parties have given the slogan of ethnicity. The political division of Nepal will be based on the ethnicity. It may be harmful to some extend, if it is not considered to the proper division of the natural resources in the federal political system of Nepal and there will not be given proper attention for the sustainable management of the resources of the mountainous region. Unless the Himalayas are living, development in the other sectors is beyond imagination. I hope that Nepalese people will consider the importance of Himalayas and will act toward their long-term management. Just as Nepal is known as a Himalayan country, "The Living Himalayas" program will be a lasting fuel for prosperous new Nepal.
(Krishna Pd Sigdel is a Nepalese ecologist and an environmental journalist)
Koirala shifts from Federalism to Decentralization
Feb 14, 2009, Look and Gaze Correspondent: What appears to be a large shift from his earlier position, former Prime Minister of Nepal and President of the second largest party Nepali Congress, Girija Prasad Koirala spoke out his wish that he wants to see the country federalized as per the principle of "decentralization". He suggested that the Swedish federalism serves as the best model. Swedish federalism entails a decentralized governance structure which comprise of central, regional and village level governments. "This is a tight rope walking, as there is the possibility of safely crossing the risk or falling in the middle", he said. "It can bring to us good results as well as bad ones".
He stressed on the need for unity among the political parties represented in the constituent assembly. An old political hawk who witnessed coming and going of four dynastic kings and their constitutions, Koirala said the new constitution should be so simple and clear that a layperson like himself could understand it. National integrity and sovereignty should never be compromised at any cost, he added.
Koirala also expressed his disappointment over the Maoists tendency to go astray the agreed upon sets of actions set out while signing the 12-point understanding. "When students don't perform well, it is the teachers who are generally blamed", he cracked a joke indicating the Maoists' disobedience to their teacher.
(Koirala was speaking at a program organized by Susma Koirala Memorial Trust in Kathmandu. Kedar Nath Upadhyay, Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of Nepal, who was also present at the program, stressed on the need for unity among the political parties. Other participants: CP Oli of the CPN (ML), Khim Lal Devkota, Central Committee Member of the UCPN (Maoist), Prof Tahir Mahmood, Member of the Law Commission of India, W Cole Durham, Jr., J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, USA, Prof Kanak Bikram Thapa, Prof. Amber Prasad Panth, Dr Shindu Nathh Pyakural, Prof Brett Schariff.)
KATMANDU, Nepal: Soldiers rescued three rare dolphins that were stranded in a pond in southeastern Nepal, officials said Wednesday.
Soldiers and Kosi Tappu Conservation officials caught the dolphins and transported them back home to the Kosi River, where they were released, government administrator Fanindra Pokhrel said. The area was being searched to make sure no other dolphins were stranded.
The dolphins were swept several miles (kilometers) to the pond by floodwaters when the banks of the Kosi broke during last year's monsoon. They were spotted only after the water level dropped.
An unknown number of dolphins belonging to an endangered species called Platanista gangetica live in the southern Kosi, which flows into India and is Nepal's largest river. During last year's monsoon, the river breached its banks and flooded hundreds of villages in both countries.
Several people were killed by the floods and more than 1 million were driven from their homes, mostly in the Indian state of Bihar. (AP)
A senior U.S. official and Nepal's prime minister on Wednesday discussed removing the country former rebels who have laid down their weapons and now lead the government from a terrorism blacklist.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher told reporters that taking the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) off the U.S. list was among the tropics he addressed with Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal. He did not elaborate.
The U.S. was among the last nations to establish contact with the Maoists even after they gave up their armed revolt in 2006 to join a peace process. It was only last year when U.S. officials and diplomats met Maoist leaders.
U.S. officials have repeatedly said Washington is concerned about continued reports of violence by groups affiliated with the Maoists.The Maoists contested elections in May 2008 and emerged as the largest political party. They now head a coalition government. (AP)
A Travel Writer's Visit Wish List
Kathmandu is one of them
By Susan Spano
(c) 2009, Los Angeles Times
After a decade of political turmoil that kept travelers away, peace has broken out in Nepal.
The monarchy formally was abolished last year, leaving the landlocked Himalayan nation a struggling young democracy, dependent on tourism for development.
That's why I want to go back to Katmandu this year. Nepal needs encouragement.
Of course, my motives aren't purely altruistic. The temperate valley encircled by rice terraces has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the exquisitely restored town of Bhaktapur; white-domed Boudhanath Temple, a center for displaced Tibetan Buddhists; eerie, shrine-filled Palace Square in Katmandu; and the Hindu "ghats" at Pashupatinath.
Katmandu also has attractively priced hotels, the colorful old hippie neighborhood of Thamel, world-class shopping, all the cuisines of Asia and warm, winning people.
From the centrally located valley, bus and van tours are available to Pokhara in the Annapurnas, Mount Everest and Lhasa, the Tibetan capital.
The U.S. State Department has issued a warning about Nepal, based on sporadic political unrest. But that hasn't stopped major tour companies, including Myths and Mountains and Geographic Expeditions, from taking tour groups there.
ROME -- People always ask me how I decide where to go.
I read, I see movies, I stare at maps, I dream.
And in doing so, I arrived at these 10 places that are tops on my list for 2009. Some are old favorites that are newly affordable. Others have a special reason to shine this year or suddenly are being talked about by well-traveled people I know. A few are raw, off-the-beaten-track destinations that I doubt can long remain un-transformed by globalization.
Money's tight, so I know I won't get to them all. But tough times have forced travel providers to reduce prices, meaning that now might be the time to take the grand tour.
See Rome and die, they say. But it would be a sad thing to kick the bucket without having been to Alaska.
America's 49th state has as much knockout scenery as all the lower 48 put together. And it's celebrating its 50th anniversary of statehood this year with special events and travel deals on items as diverse as national park lodges and RV rentals, described at www.travelalaska.com.
Alaska touring options abound: taking the train from Anchorage to Fairbanks, passing 20,320-foot Denali; kayaking around 3.3-million acre Glacier Bay National Park; or staying at a fishing lodge where guides can help you catch a 50-pound salmon.
But my favorite way to see the great northern wonderland is the Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System, which covers the nooks and crannies of the coast from Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands to Bellingham, Wash.
Four routes are described at www.dot.state.ak.us/amhs, including the 600-mile Inside Passage, which weaves through a maze of coastal islands. The facilities are spartan compared with a cruise ship, but the fellowship and scenery are unparalleled.
Get a copy of "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," by mystery writer Alexander McCall Smith, starring a "traditionally built" lady sleuth who tracks down clues in a little white van along the rutted roads of Botswana.
There are nine books in the series, with a new installment, "Tea Time for the Traditionally Built," out in April. In March, HBO will air a seven-part series based on the books filmed on location in Botswana.
The true beauty of these books is their setting: dry, land-locked Botswana with its vast, empty Kalahari Desert and wildlife-rich Okavango Delta.
Prime time to visit is from April to October, the dry season when elephants and lions congregate in Chobe National Park, Moremi Wildlife Reserve and the Linyanti Marshes. For information on these and other Botswana attractions, see www.botswanatourism.co.bw.
To track down settings used in Smith's mysteries, check www.alexandermccallsmith.co.uk.
Each of the Hawaiian Islands has its devotees, but for scenic diversity, big is best, if you ask me.
Five times as large as Maui, its nearest neighbor, the island of Hawaii has the highest mountain in the chain, snow-capped, 13,796-foot Mauna Kea; awesomely active Kilauea volcano; Hilo, the island's funky county seat; the breathtakingly scenic Saddle Road; historic Parker Ranch; deep Waipio Valley; orchid farms; beaches; sugar mills; and Kona coffee.
Since the beginning of the year, airlines, tour companies and hotel chains serving Hawaii have been offering deals that make a Big Island visit too attractive to postpone.
Check out www.gohawaii.com and look for good rates from resort chains with lush properties near Kona International Airport on the island's beachy western coast.
Other sites to explore: www.hawaii.com; www.travel-hawaii.com; www.hawaiianairlines.com; www.pleasantholidays.com; www.nps.gov/havo/ (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park).
It's OK if you have to check a map to find Malacca. Almost everybody does, which is what makes the city seem so exotic and elusive.
It's on the western coast of the Malaysian peninsula, overlooking the fabled Strait of Malacca.
Malacca was founded in the 14th century by a prince from the island of Sumatra and settled by Chinese, Malaysians and Indians. In 1511, it was conquered by the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and the English. By the 19th century, nearby Singapore had eclipsed it in importance.
The cultural melange gave Old Malacca its singular, spicy Chinese-Malay cuisine and richly layered architecture. This UNESCO World Heritage Site has a Portuguese-era fortress, a Dutch city hall, Chinese cemeteries and shophouses, a sultan's palace and St. Paul's Church, where St. Francis Xavier served as a missionary.
Best of all, Malacca remains off the beaten track, although it's an easy hop from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and the beaches of southwestern Thailand.
When the pound was worth $2 about a year ago, many people believed they could not afford to visit Britain ever again. Since then, the British currency has plummeted to a seven-year low, meaning now is the time to check out flights to Heathrow.
London's cool, 250-year-old Kew Gardens is blooming, and Shakespeare still haunts Stratford-upon-Avon. But I'm putting my money on Scotland, especially the border country, an easy drive south of Edinburgh. The region, beloved by Sir Walter Scott, who lived at Abbotsford House near the town of Melrose, is still as gloriously wild and woolly as when it was a lair for outlaws, known as reivers.
The Borders, drained by the meandering River Tweed and bounded on the east by the rocky Berwickshire coast, is wide-open territory for walkers, bikers and equestrians. Established routes, including the South Upland Way and Berwickshire Coastal Path, cross lonely upland moors, skirt cliffs along the North Sea, wander through dark forests and pass fortresslike peel towers.
Meanwhile, there's succor for travelers in old market towns -- Hawick and Peebles come to mind -- and at historic estates such as Traquair House. There, bed-and-breakfast guests can sleep down the hall from the chamber where Mary Queen of Scots stayed in 1566.
Some trips you actually take; others you take only in your mind, which might be the case with Syria. The U.S. State Department says it harbors terrorist organizations and notes that it has been the scene of anti-American demonstrations.
So why does everyone I know who has been there -- including archaeologists and foreign correspondents -- say that Syrians are friendly to Americans and that tourists have not been the targets of violence?
They also say it's a Middle Eastern idyll, at the heart of the ancient cradle of civilization. Syrian cuisine, highlighted by hundreds of varieties of "mezes", or appetizers, must be tasted to be believed, and the country's "souks" or marketplaces teem with treasures. Best of all, isolation has left it untrammeled and intense. I don't know how long that will last, so I want to go now.
My dream Syria tour would take in the capital Damascus with its Umayyad Mosque, one of Islam's holiest sites; the ruins of ancient Palmyra, where legendary Queen Zenobia mounted a rebellion against Rome in the third century; Aleppo, a Silk Road trading mecca with a seven-mile-long covered souk, citadel and nearby Simeon, the Stylite monastery where the ascetic early-Christian saint lived atop a pillar for 37 years.
^Utah Highway 12
Highway 12 gets my vote for most scenic road in the U.S., although few people know about it. Plus, it's in south-central Utah, where prices for just about everything are relatively low. Put it all together and you get a great, affordable Wild West vacation.
East of Bryce Canyon National Park, it takes a 120-mile bend across the rugged Colorado Plateau, which descends toward the Grand Canyon in a series of majestic cliffs known as the Grand Staircase. That geological feature gave its name to the region's 1.9-million acre Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument.
The scenery along the way is one long hymn to the American West, including lonely little ranching communities such as Tropic and Cannonville, the weird sandstone chimneys of Kodachrome Basin State Park and 10,188-foot Powell Point.
From Head of the Rocks just north of the dusty town of Escalante, you can see the vast, impregnable Kaiparowits Plateau, lonely Henry Mountains and 100-mile-long Waterpocket Fold. Then the highway climbs over Boulder Mountain to the pleasant town of Torrey at the threshold of Capitol Reef National Park.
Take a tent or a camper if you don't mind roughing it; otherwise book a comfy room at Ruby's Inn near Bryce or the historic Lodge at Red River Ranch west of Torrey.
Info: www.utah.com/byways/highway 12.htm.
Valparaiso has stuck in my mind since I visited it briefly about 10 years ago. I never got back but figure that now may be the time to nab a South American cruise bargain or discounted air fare from Lan (www.lan.com).
The Pacific Rim seaport on the coast of Chile was mentioned in Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" and thrived as a stopover for California Gold Rushers who preferred the harrowing nautical route around the Strait of Magellan to the long, tough overland trail across the American mainland.
Situated on steep, earthquake-prone hillsides overlooking the apparently endless South Pacific, it has a transit system that features Portuguese-style funiculars and a compellingly seedy air. Cruise ships have begun to dock there, which I hope won't ruin it.
Valparaiso sightseers can take in South America's oldest stock exchange and La Sebastiana, the eccentrically decorated home of Chilean Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.
Travelers drawn to newly accessible and relatively budget-priced Eastern European cities tend to give Warsaw the cold shoulder, chiefly because it's a modern metropolis that had to struggle back to life after near-total destruction by the Germans in World War II.
Its Old Town was painstakingly restored post-war and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a 15th-century town hall, market square, royal castle and cathedral.
There's little left of the Warsaw ghetto, leveled in the aftermath of the 1943 uprising, a desperate house-to-house battle waged by a handful of sick and starving Jews who had managed to avoid deportation to the Treblinka gas chambers. A visit to Warsaw is incomplete without paying homage to the doomed insurgents at Nozyk Synagogue, the single Jewish house of worship that escaped demolition at the hands of the Germans.
On a much happier note, Warsaw was the home of Frederic Chopin. In preparation for the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth next year, Warsaw is remodeling its Chopin Museum and the manor house where he was born. I'm listening to "Claire de Lune" and planning a trip to Warsaw before throngs of Chopin-lovers get there next year. (Los Angeles Times)
Introduction of Nepal
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. An insurgency led by Maoist extremists broke out in 1996. The ensuing nine-year civil war between insurgents and government forces witnessed the dissolution of the cabinet and parliament and assumption of absolute power by the king. Several weeks of mass protests in April 2006 were followed by several months of peace negotiations between the Maoists and government officials, and culminated in a November 2006 peace accord and the promulgation of an interim constitution. The newly formed interim parliament declared Nepal a democratic federal republic at its first meeting in May 2008, the king vacated the throne in mid-June 2008, and parliament elected the country's first president the following month.
Southern Asia, between China and India
28 00 N, 84 00 E
total: 147,181 sq km
land: 143,181 sq km
water: 4,000 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly larger than Arkansas
total: 2,926 km
border countries: China 1,236 km, India 1,690 km
0 km (landlocked)
varies from cool summers and severe winters in north to subtropical summers and mild winters in south
Tarai or flat river plain of the Ganges in south, central hill region, rugged Himalayas in north
lowest point: Kanchan Kalan 70 m
highest point: Mount Everest 8,850 m
quartz, water, timber, hydropower, scenic beauty, small deposits of lignite, copper, cobalt, iron ore
arable land: 16.07%
permanent crops: 0.85%
other: 83.08% (2005)
11,700 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
210.2 cu km (1999)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 10.18 cu km/yr (3%/1%/96%)
per capita: 375 cu m/yr (2000)
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, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands
signed, but not ratified: Marine Life Conservation
Geography - note:
landlocked; strategic location between China and India; contains eight of world's 10 highest peaks, including Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga - the world's tallest and third tallest - on the borders with China and India respectively
29,519,114 (July 2008 est.)
0-14 years: 38% (male 5,792,042/female 5,427,370)
15-64 years: 58.2% (male 8,832,488/female 8,345,724)
65 years and over: 3.8% (male 542,192/female 579,298) (2008 est.)
total: 20.7 years
male: 20.5 years
female: 20.8 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.095% (2008 est.)
29.92 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
8.97 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate:
NA (2008 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.94 male(s)/female
total population: 1.06 male(s)/female (2008 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 62 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 60.18 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 63.91 deaths/1,000 live births (2008 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 60.94 years
male: 61.12 years
female: 60.75 years (2008 est.)
Total fertility rate:
3.91 children born/woman (2008 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.5% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
61,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
3,100 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: intermediate
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vectorborne disease: Japanese encephalitis and malaria (2008)
noun: Nepalese (singular and plural)
Chhettri 15.5%, Brahman-Hill 12.5%, Magar 7%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.5%, Newar 5.4%, Muslim 4.2%, Kami 3.9%, Yadav 3.9%, other 32.7%, unspecified 2.8% (2001 census)
Hindu 80.6%, Buddhist 10.7%, Muslim 4.2%, Kirant 3.6%, other 0.9% (2001 census)
note: only official Hindu state in the world
Nepali 47.8%, Maithali 12.1%, Bhojpuri 7.4%, Tharu (Dagaura/Rana) 5.8%, Tamang 5.1%, Newar 3.6%, Magar 3.3%, Awadhi 2.4%, other 10%, unspecified 2.5% (2001 census)
note: many in government and business also speak English (2001 est.)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 48.6%
female: 34.9% (2001 census)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 9 years
male: 10 years
female: 8 years (2003)
3.4% of GDP (2003)
conventional long form: Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
conventional short form: Nepal
local long form: Sanghiya Loktantrik Ganatantra Nepal
local short form: Nepal
federal democratic republic
geographic coordinates: 27 43 N, 85 19 E
time difference: UTC+5.75 (10.75 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
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)
NA; note - in 2006, Parliament abolished the birthday of King GYANENDRA (7 July) and Constitution Day (9 November) as national holidays
9 November 1990; note - a new interim constitution was promulgated in January 2007; the November 2006 peace agreement calls for the election of a Constituent Assembly to draft a new permanent constitution
based on Hindu legal concepts and English common law; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
18 years of age; universal
chief of state: President Ram Baran YADAV (as of 23 July 2008); Vice President Paramananda JHA (as of 23 July 2008)
head of government: Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal DAHAL (as of 18 August 2008); Deputy Prime Minister Bamdev GAUTAM
cabinet: cabinet formed in August 2008 by a majority coalition made up of the Communist Party Nepal (Marxist), Communist Party Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist, and Mahdesi Jana Adhikar Forum
elections: president elected by Parliament; term NA; election last held 21 July 2008
election results: Ram Baran YADAV elected president by the Constituent Assembly in a second round of voting on 21 July 2008; Ram Baran YADAV 308, Ram Jaja Prasad SINGH 282
unicameral Constituent Assembly (601 seats; 240 seats decided by direct popular vote; 335 seats by proportional representation; 26 appointed by the Cabinet (Council of Ministers))
elections: last held 10 April 2008 (next to be held NA)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CPN-M 220, NC 110, CPN-UML 103, Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum 52, Terai Madhesi Democratic Party/Nepal Sadbhawana Party 29, other smaller parties 61; note - 26 seats to be filled by the new Cabinet
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:
Chure Bhawar Rastriya Ekata Party [Keshav Prasad MAINALI]; Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) [Pushpa Kamal DAHAL, also known as PRACHANDA, chairman; Dr. Baburam BHATTARAI]; Communist Party of Nepal (ML) [C.P. MAINALI]; Communist Party of Nepal (Unified) [Raj Singh SHRIS]; Communist Party of Nepal (United) [Ganesh SHAH]; Communist Party of Nepal/United Marxist-Leninist or CPN/UML [Amrit Kumar BOHARA]; Dalit Janajati Party [Vishwendraman PASHWAN]; Janamorcha Nepal [Amik SHERCHAN]; Madhesi Jana Adhikar Forum [Upendra YADAV]; National Democratic Party or NDP [Pashupati Shumsher RANA] (also called Rastriya Prajatantra Party or RPP); Nepal Loktantrik Samajbadi Dal [Upendra GACHCHHADAR]; Nepal Pariwar Dal [Vinod DANGI]; Nepal Rastriya Party [Khushilal YADAV]; Nepal Sadbhavana Party (Anandi Devi) [Shyam Sundar GUPTA]; Nepal Workers and Peasants Party or NWPP [Narayan Man BIJUKCHHE]; Nepali Congress Party or NCP [Girija Prasad KOIRALA]; Nepali Janata Dal [Bharat Prasad MAHATO]; Rastriya Janamorcha [Chitra BAHADUR K.C.]; Rastriya Janamukti Party [Malwar Singh THAPA]; Rastriya Janashakti Party or RJP [Surya Bahadur THAPA] (split from RPP in March 2005); Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal [Kamal THAPA]; Sadbhavana Party (Mahato) [Rajendra MAHATO]; Samajbadi Prajatantrik Janata Party Nepal [Prem Bahadur SINGH]; Sanghiya Loktantrik Rastriya Manch [Kamal CHHARAHANG]; Terai Madhesi Democratic Party [Mahantha THAKUR]
Political pressure groups and leaders:
other: several small armed Madhesi groups along the southern border with India; a variety of groups advocating regional autonomy for individual ethnic groups
International organization participation:
ADB, BIMSTEC, CP, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO (correspondent), ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, MINURCAT, MINUSTAH, MONUC, NAM, OPCW, SAARC, SACEP, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNMIL, UNMIS, UNMIT, UNOCI, UNOMIG, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Kali POKHREL
chancery: 2131 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone:  (202) 667-4550
FAX:  (202) 667-5534
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Nancy J. POWELL
embassy: Maharajgunj, Kathmandu
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone:  (1) 400-7200
FAX:  (1) 400-7272
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 almost one-third of its population living below the poverty line. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, providing a livelihood for three-fourths of the population and accounting for 38% of GDP. Industrial activity mainly involves the processing of agricultural produce including jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. Security concerns relating to the Maoist conflict have led to a decrease in tourism, a key source of foreign exchange. Nepal has considerable scope for 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, its civil strife, and its susceptibility to natural disaster. Bumper crops, better security, improved transportation, and increased tourism pushed growth past 4% in 2008, after growth had hovered around 2.3% - the rate of population growth - for the previous three years.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$30.84 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$12.64 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
4% (2008 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$1,000 (2008 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 42% (FY05/06 est.)
note: severe lack of skilled labor (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
services: 18% (2004 est.)
42% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.6%
highest 10%: 40.6% (2004)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
revenues: $1.153 billion
expenditures: $1.927 billion (FY06/07)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
6.4% (2007 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
6.25% (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
8% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money:
$2.184 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of quasi money:
$4.745 billion (31 December 2007)
Stock of domestic credit:
$5.636 billion (31 December 2007)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$4.909 billion (31 December 2007)
tourism, carpets, textiles; small rice, jute, sugar, and oilseed mills; cigarettes, cement and brick production
Electricity - production:
2.703 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
2.276 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity - exports:
165 million kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports:
380 million kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production:
0 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - consumption:
16,960 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - exports:
0 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - imports:
11,530 bbl/day (2006 est.)
Oil - proved reserves:
0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance:
$58 million (2007)
$830 million f.o.b.; note - does not include unrecorded border trade with India (2006)
Exports - commodities:
carpets, clothing, leather goods, jute goods, grain
Exports - partners:
India 69.3%, US 8.8%, Germany 4.1% (2007)
$2.398 billion f.o.b. (2006)
Imports - commodities:
gold, machinery and equipment, petroleum products, fertilizer
Imports - partners:
India 58.9%, China 13.6%, Japan 1.6% (2007)
Debt - external:
$3.07 billion (March 2006)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
Nepalese rupees (NPR) per US dollar - NA (2007), 72.446 (2006), 72.16 (2005), 73.674 (2004), 76.141 (2003)
Telephones - main lines in use:
Telephones - mobile cellular:
1.157 million (2006)
general assessment: poor telephone and telegraph service; fair radiotelephone communication service and mobile-cellular telephone network
international: country code - 977; radiotelephone communications; microwave landline to India; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Indian Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 6, FM 5, shortwave 1 (2000)
Television broadcast stations:
1 (plus 9 repeaters) (1998)
Internet country code:
Airports - with paved runways:
over 3,047 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 8
under 914 m: 1 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
1,524 to 2,437 m: 1
914 to 1,523 m: 6
under 914 m: 30 (2007)
total: 59 km
narrow gauge: 59 km 0.762-m gauge (2006)
total: 17,280 km
paved: 9,829 km
unpaved: 7,451 km (2004)
Nepalese Army, Armed Police Force (2008)
Military service age and obligation:
18 years of age for voluntary military service; 15 years of age for military training; no conscription (2008)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 7,322,965
females age 16-49: 6,859,064 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 5,146,958
females age 16-49: 4,724,495 (2008 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
female: 312,297 (2008 est.)
1.6% of GDP (2006)
Disputes - international:
joint border commission continues to work on contested sections of boundary with India, including the 400 square kilometer dispute over the source of the Kalapani River; India has instituted a stricter border regime to restrict transit of Maoist insurgents and illegal cross-border activities; approximately 106,000 Bhutanese Lhotshampas (Hindus) have been confined in refugee camps in southeastern Nepal since 1990
Refugees and internally displaced persons:
refugees (country of origin): 107,803 (Bhutan); 20,153 (Tibet/China)
IDPs: 50,000-70,000 (remaining from ten-year Maoist insurgency that officially ended in 2006; displacement spread across the country) (2007)
illicit producer of cannabis and hashish for the domestic and international drug markets; transit point for opiates from Southeast Asia to the West
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