The District of Nuapada was a part of Kalahandi District until early March 1993, but for administrative convenience, Kalahandi District was divided into two parts i.e. Kalahandi and Nuapada - see State Government Notification No. DRC-44/93/14218/R dated 27 March 1993. Nuapada District now comprises two sub-divisions (Nuapada and Khariar), two tehsils (Nuapada and Khariar) and five community development blocks (Khariar, Sinapalli, Boden, Nuapada and Komna).
Nuapada district is in the western part of Odisha, lying between latitude 20° 0' N and 21° 5' and between longitude 82° 20' E and 82° 40' E. Its boundaries extend in the north, west and south to Mahasamund district in Chhattisgarh and in the east to Bargarh, Balangir and Kalahandi districts. The district has an area of 3407.5 km² and the administrative headquarters is located at Nuapada.
The plains of Nuapada subdivision are fringed by rugged hill ranges stretching southward, which belong to the main line of the Eastern Ghats and contain extensive plateaus of about 4000 ft (1200 m) in elevation with thick tropical vegetation. They contain such mineral deposits of laterite, graphite and bauxite.
The hillsides rising up precipitously from the plains are covered with dense sal forests. The forests of the district are managed under Forest Division namely Khariar Division. According to their composition, the forests can be classified into sal forests, teak forests, miscellaneous forests where sal, teak and other species occur in mixture and bamboo forest. All these are situated in the dry deciduous forest zone. Timber is by far the major forest produce and sal is no doubt, a major constituent of these products. Other important species are bija, asan, bandhan and teak. Among the minor forest produces of this region are kendu leaf, bamboo, broom-grass, mohua flower and seed, antia bark and sabai-grass. Timber, bamboo and kendu leaf are the main exports outside the state.
Nuapada district has been perennially in the news due to acute drought conditions and allegations of deaths by starvation. When Nuapada district was carved out of Kalahandi district, all the drought-prone blocks came under the jurisdiction of Nuapada district, whereas the fertile land came under Kalahandi district. Hence the proverbial "starvation deaths" of Kalahandi are actually a feature of Nuapada and not of Kalahandi district. The Sahitya Akademi prize winning poems Kalahandi and Equation by Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan were chiefly based on the poet's observation of tribal life in the Sinapali, Komana and Boden blocks of Nuapada. The poem was inspired by a real life incident of a tribal woman selling off her six month old child for only forty rupees in the face of acute starvation. The area is still underdeveloped, inaccessible and poverty stricken with the lowest literacy level in the State at just 46 percent.
Nuapada (then under Kalahandi) had made news headlines when a tribal woman named Phanas Punji of Amlapalli village in the district sold off her teen-aged sister-in-law Banita to an unemployed blind man for forty rupees and a saree. Following the incident, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi made a visit to the village. The incident has since become part of Odisha folklore.