Nepal’s 10 year civil war that claimed nearly 15,000 lives, injured scores of others, witnessed nearly 1300 disappearing without trace and displaced countless ended five years ago. But the country is still counting its losses—both in economic terms and social fallout.
Preliminary report of this year’s census, the first since end of the civil war, released on Tuesday gives a glimpse of some likely outcomes. Nepal now has a population of 26.62 million, an increase of nearly 3.5 million since 2001. But the annual growth rate declined from 2.25 pc to 1.4 pc during the same period.
This is the lowest growth rate witnessed since 1961. There could be a link between the decline and internal displacement of millions as well as hordes of citizens choosing to leave the country in search of better avenues.
Nepal has an absent population (those who have left the country) of 1.92 million now against a figure of 0.762 million a decade back. Since most of them are males (1.66 million) and are in the reproductive/fertile age bracket—it could have some bearing on decline in population.
Significantly the sex ratio has also gone down considerably. From almost an equal number of males to per hundred females in 2001, the figure now stands at 94.41. Average household size in the country also got reduced from 5.4 persons to 4.7 persons in 10 years.
Movement of citizens within the country also reflects the kind of demographic transformation taking place. Twenty eight of the 75 districts in Nepal recorded an annual growth rate less than the national average and 23 witnessed negative growth rate. Is migration or the civil war responsible?
On the other hand, Kathmandu witnessed 61 pc increase in its population in 10 years and an average annual increase 4.76 pc. The capital also has the highest density of population (4408 persons per square km.) while the national figure is 181.
Significant increase in annual growth rate in urban population (3.38 pc) in comparison to rural areas (1.03 pc) is indicative that people are migrating in considerable numbers from villages to towns and cities.
The exact magnitude and nature of displacement of population due to the decade-long conflict and also due to movement of labour force will only be known once the detailed report is out.