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Kunda Dixit: Giant neighbors and shifting plates put the squeeze on Nepal

Country must prepare to face natural disasters and political pressure

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On Jan. 11, a laborer sits atop debris from a monastery damaged during the 2015 earthquake in Kathmandu.   © Reuters

Sandwiched between two of the world's largest countries, Nepal has always described itself as a "small" country. But with a population of about 28 million, it is still around the world's 45th most populous nation. It is small only compared with China, to the north, and India, to the south, which together account for one-third of humanity.

It is also one of the most vertical countries in the world, rising from near sea level in the southern plains to the top of Mt. Everest at 8,848 meters, all within a distance of only 80km. Nepalis like to joke that there are six directions in their country: north, south, east, west, up and down. This makes the country very scenic -- and very seismic.

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