Dam project halted for now

A file image of Sungai Kampar. People involved in eco-tourism say the project has also polluted the river.

A file image of Sungai Kampar. People involved in eco-tourism say the project has also polluted the river.

A PROJECT to build a mini hydro dam near Kampung Ulu Geruntum in Gopeng has been put on hold pending an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and other studies.

Perak Health, Consumer Affairs, Civil Community, National Integration and Human Resources Committee chairman A. Sivanesan said the State Environment Department, Kampar District Office and Land Office have been instructed to produce the reports.

“Following meetings with the state government, the project’s contractor has agreed to temporarily stop all work to allow for the studies to be conducted.

“DOE together with the Land and District Offices have until the end of the month to submit the reports,” Sivanesan said after chairing a dialogue with the project’s stakeholders, including the orang asli, at the state secretariat building today.

Sivanesan said another meeting would be called at a later date to decide the next course of action for the project.

“The DOE indicated during the dialogue that some of its guidelines were not complied with for the project.

“The Drainage and Irrigation Department also said the contractor did not follow the project’s plan for erosion and sediment control, which led to river pollution,” he said.

In February, StarMetro reported that a group of orang asli from six villages near Kampung Ulu Geruntum protested the construction of the mini hydro dam, as the project damaged ancestral gravesites and disrupted their livelihoods by destroying farms and orchards.

Businesses involved in eco-tourism in the area also said that the waters of Sungai Kampar were polluted by the project.

The project, approved by the previous state government, was part of a larger project to build 31 mini hydro dams along three rivers in Perak.

Some 400 villagers from six settlements of the indigenous Semai tribe have been protesting against the project since 2012, when it was first announced.

In April, a group of 35 villagers filed a civil suit against the then federal government, the state government, the Perak Orang Asli Development Department, the Perak Land and Mines Office and two contractors involved in the project at the Perak High Court.

They sought injunctions to stop further infringement on their ancestral land.

Sivanesan noted that the lawsuit’s case management will take place on June 27, and councils for both parties intend to inform the court that an amicable resolution was being sought.

He also noted that the contractors have agreed to pay compensation to affected villagers, though the amount has yet to be discussed.

Although the new state government now has to deal with the implications of the project, Sivanesan said the authorities would try be fair to all parties concerned.

“The project actually benefits the orang asli as they will be given jobs at the site.

“Had all relevant authorities monitored the project properly before this, all these problems and issues could have been minimised.

“Let us not forget that the project has benefits too,” he added.

Gopeng MP Dr Lee Boon Chye, who was also present, said the new state government was aware that the orang asli wanted the project to be scrapped permanently.

“However, the state government will have to consider the financial implications before making any final decision.

“If the project cannot be called off, we will have to make sure there will be stricter enforcement to reduce the impact on the orang asli,” he said.

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Perak , Kampung Ulu Geruntum , orang asli