The state government is planning to turn deserted Pulau Upeh into a centre for Hawksbill turtle conservation as well as an eco-tourism attraction. The island is the country's main landing site for the critically-endangered sea turtle species which belongs to the family Cheloniidae.
Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the state government would be working with a private investor for this purpose and the planned development would include upgrading the 120 chalets that had been abandoned for 10 years and the construction of new ones.
"The island was initially bought by Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) and was supposed to be turned into its training centre but the plan did not materialise. We have now bought the island back for RM6.5 million and would be developing it with the private sector. Work on the island will begin next month and is expected to be completed in a year. The shores around the island will be preserved for turtle conservation."
Ali said this after witnessing the signing of a memorandum of understanding on the purchase of the island between Chief Minister Incorporated (CMI) and TNB. CMI was represented by Malacca State Secretary Datuk Omar Kaseh and TNB by its president and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Che Khalib Mohamad Noh.
Ali said Pulau Upeh had the potential to be the next big tourism attraction in the state. He added that its location, close to the Klebang beach, made it easily accessible. "The island would also be a stone's throw from the soon to be constructed RM250 million Arab City Klebang," he said, adding that the island could be accessed via boat from Sungai Melaka or the Boat Explorer jetty in Klebang.
Ali said tourists could visit the island to catch a glimpse of the Hawksbill turtle and this would also be promoted by the state. "I have asked the state Tourism Promotion Board to look into offering packages for tourists to visit Pulau Upeh," he added.
Every year, between 200 to 300 Hawksbill turtle nests are identified in Pulau Upeh and the nearby beaches. This population is significant as it is the largest nesting congregation in Peninsular Malaysia.