Nepal - Infrastructure, power, and communications

In post-1950s Nepal, planners and foreign aid donors viewed the creation of infrastructure as vital to the success of the country's economic development. Five-year plans prioritized transportation and communications, but although the results were significant, they remain inadequate. Nepal has 13,849 kilometers (8,522 miles) of paved, graveled, and fair-weather roads, with the major highways linking east to west and north to south. However, monsoon rains work on the unstable mountain geology, causing widespread landslides and driving up road maintenance costs. There were 253,407 vehicles registered in 1999, of which 142,000 were in the Kathmandu Valley. Airports operate in 44 out of 75 districts, and include domestic airports in remote areas which link up with the international airport in Kathmandu. This network is crucial to the tourist industry. Recently, Nepal adopted an open-sky policy, allowing private airlines to operate domestic and international services.

Other forms of transportation are underdeveloped. There is a single narrow gauge railway line covering a distance of 52 kilometers (32 miles) from Janakpur to Jayanagar in the south, and an under-utilized 42-kilometer (26-mile) ropeway (suspended cable-car line) from Hetauda to Kathmandu, which transported 10,684 metric tons of goods in 1995. A limited trolley bus service operates in the Kathmandu Valley. Access to the sea is only possible through the Indian ports of Calcutta (1,150 kilometers, or 713 miles, from the Nepalese border) and Haldia.

Much has been said about the potential of Nepal's hydropower to fulfill local power needs, drive industrialization, and boost revenues through the sale of surplus power to India. Of a feasible potential of 27,000 megawatts (MW), Nepal currently uses a mere 332.7 MW. "Mega-projects," sponsored by institutions such as the World Bank, have been embraced and publicized by successive governments as a panacea to some of the country's economic

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Nepal 11 38 6 0.2 0 N/A N/A 0.07 35
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
China N/A 333 272 40.0 19 1.6 8.9 0.50 8,900
Thailand 63 232 236 10.1 32 2.5 21.6 4.49 800
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

ills without sufficient consideration to the displacement of people and the environmental damage they may cause. Examples of power-generating mega-projects under consideration are those in Chisapani (10,800 MW), Pancheshwor (6,480 MW), and the Arun Valley (643 MW). Local opponents have cited the inherently unsustainable and wasteful nature of such projects, which stand to plunge the country into serious debt. Locally based small to medium hydropower schemes have met with success, but this approach needs government support.

Nepal has considerably improved its postal and telephone services, though they remain deficient in rural areas. The Nepalese telecommunications network is digitized, and the Nepal Telecommunications Corporation (NTC) provides basic services for the country. Television programming began in 1985 and many families receive (not always legally) transmissions from foreign networks such as Star TV. Radio Nepal has existed since the 1950s and has a significant rural audience.

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