Historical Boundary of Nepal

Historical Boundary of Nepal

                                                                     – Buddhi N Shrestha 

The Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal lies between two big countries, China and India on its north and South. It is elongated on the east and the west. Since the last two hundred years the frontier of Nepal is surrounded on its south, east and west by India and on the north by China. History is evidence that at one time the boundary of Nepal was extended towards Tista River on the East; to Kangara across Sutlej River in the west; to the confluence of Ganga and Jamuna Rivers to the south; and to Shigatshe and Tashilhunpo Gomba (monastery) across the Himalayas in the north. In the course of time, at one time the western border was limited to Sutlej in the west to the mid-plains of the Ganges in the south; and it had touched the present day Bangladesh on the east. But because of time, situation and the activities of the past, the borderline of the Tista and Sutlej constricted to Mechi River on the east to Mahakali river on the west, and to watershed of the Himalayan Range on the north, and to the Siwalik range and the plains of the Tarai on the South. 

The northern borderline of Nepal has been fixed at watershed of the Himalayan Range by the Nepal-China Boundary Protocol of 20 January 1963. Although the Sugauli Treaty of 4 March 1816 and Supplementary Treaties have tried to fix Nepal’s borderline on the east, south and west on the above-mentioned boundaries, because of border encroachments, claims and counter-claims, intrusions and controversies it has not been finalized yet. After the demarcation of the border points with India is completed, the process of Nepal-India Boundary Protocol should be finalized formally and the delineation of the Nepal-India border should be ascertained according to the protocol. 

While the northern border has so many Himalayan peaks, and the borderline passes through the high peaks, mountains, passes, deuralis (terminal points of up mountain), gorges and the pasturelands, the southern borderline runs through fertile plains, jungles and rivers. On the east there is the Mechi River and the watershed of Singhalila Range, hills and hillocks stand as the border line, and the Mahakali River runs through the whole borderline on the west. No matter what the historical perspective of the Nepalese frontier was, the Kingdom of Nepal is bounded by a perimeter of 3,222.88 kilometers (including the disputed areas) Of this 1,414.88 km lies on the borderline with China and the remaining 1,808 km length along with the Indian border. Of the Nepalese border touching India, 1,213 km consists of land border and the remaining 595 kilometers is river boundary. There are 60 big and small rivers and rivulets which demarcate the border between Nepal and India. Of them the most important are the Mechi on the east and Mahakali on the west. The Mechi River forms 80 kilometers of the borderline, and similarly the Mahakali forms 230 km, Rapti 20 km, Ghongi 15 km, Rapti 6 km and the others form 244 kilometers of the borderline. 

The perimeter of the greater Nepal extending from Tista on the east to Sutlej on the west was 4,079 line kilometres, east-west length as 1,373 kilometers and its area was 204,917 square kilometers. It was even bigger when the country’s boundaries had extended from Tista on the east to Kangara on the West and to the confluence of the river Ganges and Yamuna on the south with the total perimeter stretching to 5,119 line kilometers, east-west length as 1,415 km and the total area as 267,575 square kilometers. But the modern Nepal has an encircled boundary line of 3,222.88 kilometers covering an area of 147,181 square kilometers. 

The geographical position of the country lies between at 800 04’ to 880 12’ east longitude, and from 260 22’ to 30027’ north latitude, with a length of 885 kilometer from east to west and a mean width of up to 193 kilometers from north to south. The lowest part of the country lies 57.3 meters above the mean sea level at Mushaharniya of Dhanusha district, and the highest part is the world’s highest mountain Mt. Everest at 8,850 meters. Nepal’s nearest point to the sea is 500 kilometers from the eastern border. 

Physiographically, Nepal can be divided into five regions. The southern plain covers 14 per cent of the total area, the Siwalik region with low hills and hillocks covers 13 per cent, the middle mountains cover 30 per cent, the high mountain region covers 20 per cent and the high Himalayan region covers 23 per cent of the total area. Of the Himalayan region 14 per cent are perennially under the cover of snow. 

The sudden rise of altitude from south to north leading to drastic differences in climate, vegetation, animal habitat and human life-style and dresses of the people is the characteristic of the Nepalese topography. As a result during the same season of the year it is sweltering hot in some places while it is shivering cold in some others. 

In the context of land use, 18.0 per cent of the total land is covered by settlement, 18.0 per cent by snow and water, 13.4 per cent is pasture land, 37.6 per cent is forest, 12.3 per cent is rocky, steep slopes, fallow or used for other purposes, and 0.7 per cent of the land is covered by human settlement and roads. The population of Nepal is 23.2 million and 14.2 per cent of them live in urban area with nine per cent of the total population estimated to be homeless. The literacy rate is 53.7 per cent and the per capita GDP is US$ 220 and 38 percent of the entire population are under poverty line.[1] 

For the administrative purposes the country is divided into 5 development regions, 14 zones, 75 districts, 58 municipalities and 3,913 Village Development Committees (VDCs). Each district, for the purpose of development, is normally divided into 9 areas; and the municipalities into 11 to 35 Wards and each VDC into 9 Wards. For the election purpose the country is divided into 205 election constituencies. Twenty-six districts of the country are bordered with India and 15 others with China. 

Within the country, inhabited by four ethnic communities and 36 castes, there are various internal boundaries such as geographical and geological constructions, administrative and political units, and other border lines for social development and land use pattern.

While the demarcation and the erection of border pillars on the Nepal-China border line and the third phase of periodic supervision and maintenance of the border pillars have been completed. But with India even the preliminary demarcation of the border, as delineated by the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 and other supplementary treaties, that started 22 years ago is yet to be completed. The work of demarcation of boundary line with India has neither stopped nor been completed. The border line which has entanglements in so many places often tries to find solutions but it entangles itself again and again. However, the boundary business with India will surely be completed one day in future, since it has been already completed with China. And in such way, encirclement of the international boundary line of the Kingdom of Nepal with two neighbouring countries will be completed in a safe and secure manner.

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[1] Statistical Pocket Book 2002, CBS Nepal : 1-14

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