Nepal is a small, landlocked country, situated between Tibet (China) to its north, and India to its east, west and south. At latitudes between 26 and 30 degrees north and longitudes between 80 and 88 degrees east, the country covers an area of 147,181sq.km and stretches approximately 145-241 km. north to south and 850 km. west to east. It has been said that, even though Nepal’s area is actually much the same as that of the state of Florida in USA, if Nepal could be taken off the face of the earth and laid flat, its area would equal that of the whole of the United States of America!
However, in fact, although occupying just 0.1% of the earth’s surface, Nepal is one of the richest countries in the world in terms of bio-diversity due to its unique geographical position and altitudinal variation. The elevation of the country ranges from less than 100 metres above sea level in the Terai, to the highest point on earth, the summit of Mt. Everest, at 8,848 metres, all within a distance of about 150km, resulting in climatic conditions ranging from sub-tropical to Arctic.
Nepal is topographically divided into three regions: the Himalaya to the north, the middle hills consisting of the Mahabharat range and the Churia Hills, and the Terai to the south. The Himalaya and its foothills make up the northern border of the country and represent 16% of the total land area. This is the least inhabited region of Nepal, with less than 8% of the population living there. Most permanent settlements are at less than 4000m altitude, although there are summer settlements as high as 5000m.
The middle hills cover about 65% of the total land area and are home to around 45% of the population of the country. This area is the home of the ancient ethnic people of Nepal. The climate is very good and most of Nepal’s lakes and beautiful valleys are located in the middle hills. Areas in the eastern hills receive most rainfall because of the monsoon clouds, which come from the Bay of Bengal. The middle hills provide a very good habitat for wild life, such as leopard, deer, bear, monkeys, butterflies and over four hundred indigenous species of birds.
The Terai is the southern part of Nepal and is an extension of the Gangetic plains of India. It covers 17% of the total land area, providing excellent farming land as well as space for large industrial areas. Until 1950, the Terai was predominantly an area of heavily malarial sub-tropical forest, inhabited only by the Royal Bengal tiger, leopard, wild boar, several species of deer, one-horned rhino, wild elephant and gharial and mugger crocodiles. But after the eradication of malaria in the 1960s, many people from the middle hills migrated to the Terai in search of farming land. Today, about 48% of the population occupies this region.
So Nepal has a very interesting and exciting bio-diversity
due to its unique geographical position and altitudinal variation. Probably,
Nepal is only country in the world, which could provide such opportunity: in
a period of just two weeks it is possible to travel from sub-tropical lowlands
to alpine glaciers, to experience altitudes from as low as 60m to the base
of the highest mountain on the earth, temperatures from +40 degrees celsius
to -40 degrees celsius and a climate ranging from monsoon and humid to dry
rain shadow and frozen zone.
Nepal – occupying only 0.1%
of the earth – is home to:
- 2% of all the flowering plant species in the world;
- 8% of the world's population of birds (more than 848 species);
- 4% of mammal species on earth;
- 11 of the world's 15 families of butterflies (more than 500 species);
- 600 indigenous plant families;
- 319 species of exotic orchids.