“Sunday Present” on TV Asahi and more

Lately, a lot of attention has been focused on the problem of waste left behind on mountains by alpinists and hikers. Mount Everest is said to be almost a dump and Mount Fuji a national disgrace. However, the problem of trash and environmental pollution afflicts even smaller peaks.

This week, NHK’s nature series “Chikyu Daisuki (Loving the Earth)” (NHK-G, Sat., 11 a.m.) will report on efforts to clean up Mount Hayachine in Iwate Prefecture and protect it from destructive refuse. As with many mountains, the main culprit is human waste, which seeps into the ground and contaminates not only the soil, but the underground water system as well. Hayachine is famous in Japan as a kind of sanctuary for high-altitude plants and flowers, and is particularly popular among middle-aged and elderly hikers, a group that is swelling as baby boomers reach retirement age.

The toilets that have been installed on the mountain collect the waste, but it is extremely difficult to transfer it to a processing station, since this involves carrying the waste down the mountain by hand. Several years ago, the authority that oversees the mountain began asking climbers to carry “portable toilets,” which means each climber must carry his or her own waste up and down the mountain. The program, which is narrated by world-famous alpinist Junko Tabe, looks at the success of the cleanup program.

Actress Tetsuko Kuroyanagi is an honorary UNICEF ambassador. She travels to trouble spots all over the world to increase awareness in Japan of the plight children face in war-torn regions and to raise money to support them.

On Oct. 8 at 2 p.m., “Sunday Present,” TV Asahi’s occasional documentary series, airs a special about Kuroyanagi’s most recent trip to the Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire), which is in the midst of a civil war.

Covering an area six times the size of Japan, the equatorial country contains many natural resources, including copper, cobalt, diamonds, oil and uranium. The reason for the civil war is mostly to determine who gets control of these resources, but despite their abundance, per capita income in the country is only about 11,000 yen per year.

Kuroyanagi visits the capital Kinshasha, as well as Goma, a city situated on the border with Rwanda, another country torn by civil strife.

She also visits the Bunia refugee camp, where she talks to children who have taken the brunt of the violence. More than 30,000 children have been kidnapped and pressed into military service during the conflict, while many girls have been forced into prostitution by military groups.

Kuroyanagi hears their stories and looks at the problem of endemic malnutrition: Out of every 1,000 children born here, 213 die before the age of 5.