The final results
confirm the Maoist victory in Nepal’s historic elections earlier this month, paving the way for the end of the monarchy and the final resolution of the decades-long civil war that led to more than 13,000 deaths. But will they be able to maintain stability after so many years fighting to disrupt the system? The roots of the Maoists’ rise—and the underlying conditions that supported their insurgency—may hold some clues to the future.
ECSP speaker Bishnu Raj Upreti told a Wilson Center audience in November 2006 that a critical factor in the conflict was lack of access to natural resources. Twenty percent of Nepal’s land supports 78 percent of the population—and the poor own only a small fraction of the arable land. A rapidly growing population—projected to increase more than 50 percent by 2050—and migration from the mountain highlands into the fertile lowlands compounds the demand on resources.
In ECSP Report 11, Richard Matthew and Upreti state that environmental and population factors are “important elements of what has gone wrong in Nepal, and they must be addressed before stability can be restored.” It remains to be seen how the newly capitalist Maoists will tackle Nepal’s environmental degradation and rapid population growth, given their past history of using these problems to drum up popular support.