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Geography

Location and Size

Landlocked between China and India; total land area 147,181 square kilometers.

Topography

Mountainous and hilly, although with physical diversity. Three broad physiographic areas run laterally--lowland Tarai Region in south; central lower mountains and hills constituting Hill Region; high Himalayas, with 8,796-meters-high Mount Everest and other peaks forming Mountain Region in north. Of total land area, only 20 percent cultivatable. Deforestation severe problem; by 1988 forests covered approximately 30 percent of land area.

The Land

Nepal has four physiographic belts in succession from south to north

  • the Tarai plain along the Indian border
  • the forested Churia foothills and the Inner Tarai zone to the north
  • the mid-mountain region, and the Great Himalaya Range.

The Tarai plain is low (600 to 1,200 feet [180 to 360 m] in elevation), flat, and fertile, being a northern extension of the Gangetic Plain some 16 to 20 miles (26 to 32 km) wide. In the south it is agricultural, and where it joins the foothills it is marshy and forested.
The sparsely populated Churia Hills and the Inner Tarai region rise to the rugged Mahabharat Mountain Range, which has elevations of 2,000-3,000 feet (600-910 m); the intermontane basins are forested.
The mid-mountain region, between the Mahabharat Range and the Great Himalayas, has a complex system of ranges between 8,000 and 14,000 feet (2,400 and 4,300 m) that enclose the Kathmandu and the Pokhara valleys, two flat basins drained by the Baghmati and Seti rivers, respectively. The densely settled Kathmandu valley is the political and cultural hub of the nation.
The Great Himalayan Range, from 14,000 to more than 29,000 feet (4,300 to 8,800 m) in elevation, contains several of the world's highest peaks--Everest, Kanchenjunga I, Makalu I, Cho Oyo, Dhaulagiri I, Manaslu I, and Annapurna I--all above 26,400 feet (8,040 m); Mount Everest ( 29,028 feet) is the world's highest. The Kosi, Narayani (Gandak), and Karnali rivers run southward through transverse valleys of the Himalayan chain. They are Nepal's major rivers and have large reserves of hydroelectric power.
The climate of Nepal ranges from subtropical monsoon conditions in the Tarai region to alpine conditions in the Great Himalayas. Annual precipitation is between 70 and 75 inches (1,800 and 1,900 mm) in the eastern Tarai and between 30 and 35 inches (760 and 890 mm) in western Nepal. Flooding is a serious problem in the low-lying areas of the Tarai plain during the monsoon season (July-mid-October). Average winter (November-March) temperatures vary from 66 F (19 C) in the southern Tarai region to 55 F (13 C) in the intermontane basins, and summer (April-June) from 82 F (28 C) to 70 F (21 C) in the same regions.
One of Nepal's principal natural resources is its forests, which cover about one-sixth of the country and provide valuable timber, firewood, and medicinal herbs. At the lowest elevations are tropical, humid, deciduous forests that harbors tigers, leopards, deer, monkeys, and a few Indian rhinoceroses. Above 4,000 feet (1,200 m), the forests are evergreen and deciduous (oak, maple, magnolia), with occasional leopards and bears on the central Himalayan slopes. Between 10,000 and 12,000 feet (3,050 and 3,650 m) are coniferous forests with hare, deer, antelope, and small carnivores; above that are subalpine and alpine meadows of rhododendron and juniper, harboring musk deer and wild sheep.

Climate

Five climatic zones based on altitude range from subtropical in south, to cool summers and severe winters in north. Annual rainfall with seasonal variations depending on monsoon cycle, which provides 60 to 80 percent of total annual rainfall; 2,500 millimeters in eastern part of country; 1,420 millimeters around Kathmandu; 1,000 millimeters in western Nepal.

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