The population of Nepal has an annual growth rate of 2.25% which adds to the country’s mounting problems in health care, education and infrastructure. The rising standards of living have contributed to a slightly declining birth rate, but there is still a long way to go in balancing the population out. The largest ethnic groups in Kathmandu are the Brahmins, Kshetris and the original inhabitants, the Newars. The surrounding hill districts around the Valley have their own ethnic groups, such as the Tamangs, who do have a presence in Kathmandu. The major religions in the Valley are Hinduism and Buddism and in recent years the Muslim demographic has grown substantially.
Given Kathmandu’s emerging development as a capital city, overpopulation and conflict amongst the residents have contributed to a rural exodus of the poor – jobs in tourism and manufacturing industries are pulling them towards the city but there aren’t many options if they fail in securing work. The damage this does to the Valley’s culture is intense: the younger generation has been accused of drifting away from the religion of their parents and the increasing dependence on work and schooling has weakened family ties. Temples are now going into disrepair as guthi (charity organizations) go into decline, leaving the upkeep in the hands of foreign preservationists. The arrival of refugees from the Maoist conflict has also introduced social conflicts.
However, Kathmanduites are an accommodating lot: they are willing to accept these social and economic problems as the price of progress. They are a culture of home-grown activism and with community forests making the country green again, women’s groups addressing domestic violence, alcoholism and gambling and environmentalists are pioneering new schemes to improve wildlife and thus the residents’ way of life.