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Nepal

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Nepal is in South Asia between China and India. The country is slightly larger than Arkansas, and its population numbers approximately 28.5 million people.

Nepal has a flat river plain near the Ganges River in the south, hills in the central region, and the rugged Himalayas in the north. This mountain range contains eight of the world’s ten highest peaks. The tallest and most famous peak, Mount Everest, resides within Nepal’s borders. Nepal’s climate varies. The northern region has cool summers and severe winters, while there are subtropical summers and mild winters in the south. Nepal enjoys such natural resources as quartz, water, lumber, lignite, copper, cobalt, and iron ore.

The Nepalese are extremely diverse, with a variety of ethnic groups making up the country’s population. These ethnic groups include the Chhettri, Brahman-Hill, Magar, Tharu, Tamang, Newar, Kami, and Yadav. Most Nepalese are Hindu.  Eleven percent are Buddhist, 4 percent are Muslim, 4 percent are Kirant, and the remainder profess other religions. Less than half of the population speaks Nepali, while the other half speaks a variety of regional languages. Many people in government and business speak English as well.

Nepal has a history stretching back thousands of years. Perhaps most famously, a prince living in Nepal, named Siddhartha Gautama, renounced his royalty and wealth to live a simple life. This prince is now known as Buddha, or “the enlightened one.”

In 1951, Nepal instituted a cabinet system of government. Decades later in 1990 various reforms established a multiparty democracy within the country. In 1996 Maoist extremists initiated an insurgency, producing a civil war that lasted for ten years. During that time the Nepalese king dissolved the cabinet and parliament, assuming supreme power. In 2006 peace negotiations between the Maoist and government officials produced an interim constitution. In April 2008 newly elected members of the Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a federal democratic republic and abolished the monarchy.

Today, Nepal is one of the world’s poorest and least developed nations. Almost a third of the nation’s population lives below the poverty line and the unemployment rate is approximately 46 percent. Fifty-five percent of Nepalese live on one dollar or less per day. Nepal’s geographically remote location, its technological backwardness, civil strife, and other factors have discouraged foreign investment and will likely continue to do so for the foreseeable future.