Nepal’s population is 29,192,480Census preliminary data shows population grew by an average 0.93 percent annually, the slowest growth in 80 years.
Nepal’s population has reached 29,192,480, with a 10.18 percent rise in the last 10 years, the Central Bureau of Statistics said on Wednesday.
The total also includes the population of the Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura areas worked out for the first time in 60 years through informal census, according to the bureau.
As per the bureau, there are around 750 people in the region.
Unveiling the preliminary data of the national census conducted from November 11 to November 25 last year, the national data agency said Nepal’s population grew by 0.93 percent annually on an average, the lowest in 80 years in the country’s history since it started counting the population in 1911—111 years ago.
The average population growth rate shown by the last census in 2011 was 1.35 percent.
Nepal’s population stood at 26,494,504 during the 2011 census.
Nepal’s annual population growth rate now is less than the global average of 1.01 percent in 2020, according to the World Bank statistics.
“Low growth rate of population indicates that birth rate in the country has decreased,” said Hem Raj Regmi, deputy director general of the Central Bureau of Statistics. “Out-migration also appears to be another reason behind the slowest growth rate in eight decades.”
Official data show that the fertility rate of Nepali women has been declining over the years.
According to Nepal Demographic Health Survey 2016, the latest such survey, Nepal’s fertility rate stood at 2.3 per woman, down from 2.6 per woman in 2011. The fertility rate of Nepali women has been on a downward trend since 1996 when the per woman fertility rate was as high as 4.6, according to the survey.
According to the new census, the average size of a family in 2021 stood at 4.32 members, down from 4.88 members earlier.
“Though the trend of living in a unitary family is also growing, the main factor behind small family size is the low fertility rate,” said Rudra Suwal, former deputy director general of the bureau.
The population growth rate has been in a decreasing trend since 2011, but Nepal witnessed a decrease in overall population in two consecutive censuses in 1920 and 1930, the first two decades since Nepal officially started counting the population.
Suwal said that the reason may be due to the participation of Nepali people in the first world war (1914-1918) and the subsequent Spanish flu pandemic that began in 1918.
In the last six decades, the country saw over two percent population growth in the first four decades. The population growth had started to decrease significantly since the 2011 census, according to the bureau’s records.
Though out-migration has also been touted as the reason behind the low population growth over the last one decade, Suwal said he believes that it is not the primary reason, as there has not been a significant jump in migrated population from 2011 to 2021.
According to the bureau, as many as 2,169,478 Nepalis were living abroad most of the time as per the new census. Ten years ago, a total of 1,921,494 people were living abroad most of the time.
According to the bureau, it counts seasonal migrant workers who go to India for work as Nepal’s own population.
“The census also showed that Nepal’s out-migrated population is not as large as it has been believed to be,” said Regmi. “This census however has failed to cover the migrated people whose entire family has stayed abroad.”
Among the migrated population, 81.28 percent of people are male. As per the latest census, though the number of Nepali women abroad is far lower than the number of men, there has been a rise of 71.09 percent in migrated Nepali women in 2021 compared to 2011.
According to the preliminary census report, the population in the Tarai region has increased while there has been a decrease in population in the hills and the mountain region.
Geography-wise, more than a half of the population lives in the Tarai.
According to the bureau, 53.66 percent of the population now lives in the Tarai region, up from 50.27 percent 10 years ago. Data suggests there has been a drop in population in the hilly region with a slight drop in the population observed in the mountain region. Geographically, Nepal for long has been divided into hilly, mountain and Tarai regions.
According to the bureau, 40.27 percent of the population lives in the hilly region, down from 43.01 percent in 2011, and 6.09 percent of the population lives in the mountain region, down from 6.73 percent 10 years ago.
Officials and experts say accessibility and infrastructure are the main reasons migration to the Tarai region has grown.
“If this trend continues, there will be growing pressure for infrastructure and facilities in the Tarai region,” said Suwal. “It may lead to haphazard development in the region as in Kathmandu without proper planning.”
Widening imbalance between the population of hilly and mountain regions and the Tarai plains may invite many other socio-economic problems, according to officials and analysts.
Hari Roka, a political economist, said that the massive migration from hills to the Tarai may invite confrontation between the migrant population and the ‘orginal’ residents of the region.
“We have already seen confrontations between political groups representing the Madhesi people and the Hill people in the Tarai, such as the confrontation between Madhesi parties and the Chure Bhawar Rastriya Ekta Party representing the hilly people,” he said.
“The migration trend to the Tarai will also lead to a loss of farmlands in the region, which is known as the country’s breadbasket. This could impact the country’s food security.”
Along with the rise in population, political representation of the Tarai might increase in the future, which may lead to a decrease in the number of electoral constituencies in the hilly region and reduce political representations in the legislative bodies, according to him.
As per Article 286 (12) of the constitution, electoral constituency delimitation should be reviewed every 20 years.
Election Constituency Delimitation Commission is responsible for constituency delimitation and the commission shall ‘determine the constituencies in provinces in accordance with the federal law, having regard to the population as the main basis and geography as the second basis for representation, and there shall be at least one election constituency in each district within the province,’ as per Article 286 (5) of the constitution.
Experts stress the need for government programmes to retain population in the hilly areas too.
As per the new census, the two provinces that saw the highest growth of populations are Madhes (by 722,143) and Lumbini (by 624,953) in the last 10 years.
Madhes Province has replaced Bagmati Province, where the capital Kathmandu and major cities like Narayangadh and Hetauda fall, as the province having the highest population, according to the new census.
Madhes now accommodates 20.99 percent of the country’s total population, closely followed by Bagmati with 20.84 percent of the population. Gandaki has the lowest population, accommodating 8.49 percent of the country’s total residents.
According to the preliminary census report, the country’s 66 percent population lives in municipalities while the rest live in rural municipalities.
“As many municipalities also accommodate large chunks of rural regions, it does not truly reflect the urban-rural gap in populations,” said Suwal, the former deputy director general of the bureau.
Regmi, the current deputy director general, said that the bureau also divided the population based on the existing administrative structure.
The country has a total of 753 local governments. There are six metropolitan cities, 11 sub-metropolitan cities, 276 municipalities and 460 rural municipalities across the country.
According to the census, Kathmandu district has the highest population of 20,17,532 while Manang has the lowest population at 5,645.
“In the three Valley districts—Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, there is a population of over three million,” said Regmi. “This is not as big as we think about the population of Kathmandu Valley.”