Geography of Nepal
Geography
  • Country : Kingdom Of Nepal
  • Position: Lat: 80° 4' to 88° 12' East
  • Long: 26° 22' to 30° 27' North
  • Area: 145,391 square kilometers
  • Capital: Kathmandu
  • Local Time GMT + 5 hours 45 minutes
  • Population 3 million
  • Government Multi-party democracy headed by a Constitutional Monarch
  • Religion Hinduism(90%), Buddhism(6%), Islam(3%), Christianity (1%)
  • Climate Sub-tropical in the Terai, lowlands Temperate in the mid-hills , Alpine in the high Himalaya
  • Altitude Variation 67 meters to 8848 meters
  • Mountain Range Central Himalaya (885 kilometers)
  • Peaks above 8,000 meters: Everest-8,848m, Kanchanjunga-8,586m Lhotse-8,516m, Makalu-8,463m Cho Oyu-8,201m, Dhaulagiri-8,167m, Manaslu-8,167m, Annapurna-8,091m
  • Plant variety: Approx. 6,500 species includes Orchids, Rhododendron, Primulae and the exotic Himalayan Blue Poppy
  • Mammals 180 species: Includes Snow Leopard, Blue Sheep, Musk Deer, Royal Bengal Tiger, Great One Horned Rhinoceros, Fresh Water Dolphin
  • Birds : 846 species: (about 10 percent of the world's variety)
Situated between longitudes 80 deg. 4 min. to 88 deg. 12 min. east and latitudes 26 deg. 22 min. to 30 deg. 27 min. north, Nepal is a landlocked country encompassing an area of 145,391 square kilometres. The country is almost rectangular in shape with its 120 to 240 kilometres width and nearly 900 kilometres length and lies wedged between the two Asian giants, China and India.
Within this small area lies one of the most diverse topographies and varied plant and animal life to found in the world. This is but to be expected in a country where the land rises from a lowly 67 metres above sea level all the way to the top of Mount Everest at 8,848 metres in a distance of 100 kilometres or so. Geographically, Nepal can be divided into seven regions going east to west. Although these divisions have mainly to do with altitude, they are equally different in the physical terrain as well.

Everest Range panorama from Kala Patthar

All across the south is the Terai lowlands, which is but an extension of the Indo-Gangetic plain into the political borders of Nepal. These plains, which stretch the length of the country with an average width of around 30 kilometres, is the bread basket of Nepal.
Till a few decades back, the Terai was covered with wide expanses of jungle. These malaria-infested forests served as an effective barrier against any would-be adventurer and helped further in Nepal's total isolation until the 1950s. Wide swathes of jungle can still be found all over the Terai but the work of the axe is evident everywhere. It was to the Terai that the people migrated as population pressure pushed them out of their limited land holdings in the hills. No wonder that this region is also the geographical zone which has the highest concentration of people in the country.

Dawn in the Terai plains

Next comes the Churia Hills, an unimpressive range that rises to around 1300 metres. These hills generally stand bereft of any vegetation and are most notable for their stark ugliness as opposed to the blue of the mountains at the back.
Beyond the Churia lies the Mahabharat Lekh, a magnificent range that serves as an effective barrier to the hill country up north. The mountains stand as tall as 2700 metres here and deep, broad valleys densely populated are encased within it. Given its wide altitudinal difference, the vegetation found in this range ranges from the subtropical to alpine.
One of the unusual formations of the great upheaval that brought the Himalaya into existence is the existence of wide valleys in some places between the Churia and the Mahabharata. Among these valleys, called the Inner Terai and doon alternately, there are three in Nepal which are more than substantial both in size and population. The Chitwan Valley in central Nepal is the biggest of these three and also the most thoroughly settled.
After the Mahabharat Lekh comes the hilly region of Nepal. This area is where most Nepalis, regardless of whether they live in the country or elsewhere, can trace their ancestry from and hence, can be called the Nepali heartland.
Rivers criss-cross the hills in every direction and almost the entire stretch of this mountainous region is inhabited. River valleys and other wider valleys such as Kathmandu and Pokhara are found in abundance here. And although the hills here are very steep, they have been made cultivable by fashioning terraces along the slopes where staple crops such as paddy, barley, buckwheat, maize and temperate vegetable and fruits are grown.

The Mahabharat Hills of Nepal

Running parallel to the Mahabharat Range on the northern side of this zone of hills and valley is 885 kilometres of the Himalayan mountain range. Here lie seven other peaks besides Everest that soar above 8000 metres: Kanchejunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Annapurna. These are but the big ones of Nepal. There are numerous other peaks above 7000 and 6000 metres that are small only in comparison to the Himalayan giants; they would stand on their own anywhere else in the world.
The Himalaya forms the border with Tibet (China) in the eastern part of Nepal but in the western half, this chain of mountains moves resolutely inland. Taking its place at the border is another great range, the Tibetan Border Range. Although not as high as the main Himalaya, this range has its own peculiarity which is not fully recognised: its southern flanks drain into the Ganges river system while the northern side forms part of the Tsangpo/Brahmaputra watershed. These are lateral divisions that are clearly visible as one makes a journey from north to south or from south to north and are mainly determined by altitude. There is another division that is felt as one moves from east to west or vice versa, one that has been created by the three main river systems of Nepal. The seemingly invincible high Himalaya is not one unbroken chain of mountains. It has only a semblance of being a continuous range. In fact, the entire range is a series of clusters of mountains coming in a straight line and it is rivers that do the work of cutting the range to divide it into small groups of mountains.

The trans-Himalayan Tibetan Plateau within Nepal

All rivers that flow down from Nepal's mountains are tributaries to one of Nepal's three great rivers: Koshi, Gandaki and Karnali. The Koshi, the largest of the three, has all the rivers of eastern Nepal flow into it. In the same way, the Gandaki and the Karnali has central Nepal and western Nepal for their catchment areas respectively. Within this area that makes up Nepal, lie innumerable places of breathtaking scenic beauty and an abundant variety of life. There are, in all, 6500 species of plant life which includes hundreds of exotic orchids, rhododendron and the beautiful Himalayan Blue Poppy. Over 800 species of birds have been recorded; that is one- tenth of the variety found in the world. The elusive snow leopard up in the high Himalaya and the ferocious two-tonne rhino of the Terai are among the more than 180 species of mammals that inhabit the wilder side of the country. While among the gentler inhabitants, humans, Nepal harbours 27 ethnic groups of peoples which radiates a cultural kaleidoscope, both fascinating and delightful.