Construction of controversial Ulu Geruntum mini hydro project to resume, says Perak exco

Abdul Aziz Bari speaks to reporters during Perak's Teachers Day celebration at Aeon Mall, Ipoh April 2, 2019. — Picture by Farhan Najib
Abdul Aziz Bari speaks to reporters during Perak's Teachers Day celebration at Aeon Mall, Ipoh April 2, 2019. — Picture by Farhan Najib

IPOH, April 2 — The mini hydro power plant in Ulu Geruntum, Gopeng, will be revived after it was suspended following protest by the Orang Asli community, a Perak state exco said.

State Education, Science, Environment and Green Technology Committee chairman Abdul Aziz Bari said the Pakatan Harapan (PH) state government was bound by the agreement signed by the previous Barisan Nasional government.

“In legal terms, we cannot simply do away with or simply dishonor the agreement that has been made by the previous administration,” he said.

“As I have said during my visit to Ulu Geruntum about two weeks ago, we will make sure the community there will not be sidelined and I am going to discuss the matter with the state legal adviser to see whether anything can be done to make sure all complaints put up by the locals can be addressed,” he added.

The Perak government had inked an agreement with Perak Hydro Renewable Energy Corporation Sdn Bhd (PHREC) for the construction of the mini hydro power plant.

The RM20 million project was suspended in June last year.

Villagers from six Semai settlements had protested against the project since 2012, when it was first announced.

Speaking to reporters after launching an event in conjunction with the state-level Teachers Day celebration, Abdul Aziz assured that while the state was committed towards renewable energy, it would not be at the expense of the environment and the welfare of the community.

“We are looking at ways and means to make sure the emphasis would not be detrimental to the environment,” he said, adding an announcement on when the project would be revived would be made after he meets the state Legal Adviser.

The Tebing Tinggi assemblyman admitted that during the campaign for the 14th general election, promises were made that the project would be called off if PH wins.

“We cannot simply do things without taking into account rule of the law. The new administration is placing emphasis on rule of law. We are not going to just ignore or discontinue at whims and fancies. We got to respect the law,” stressed the constitutional law expert.

On concerns raised by the white water rafting operators in the area that the project would pollute the water, Abdul Aziz said he was informed by the relevant agencies that their complaints were not due to the project.

“It could be upstream logging,” he added.

On April 25 last year, a group of 35 Orang Asli settlers from the villages in Ulu Geruntum filed a suit against the Federal government, the Perak state government and four others, including PHREC at the Ipoh High Court over the project.

They sought several declarations and injunctions from the High Court to protect their ancestral land and stop the defendants or their agents from encroaching on the land further.

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