Press Statement : Development Spells Doom For Pulau Upeh's Turtles | WWF Malaysia

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Press Statement : Development Spells Doom For Pulau Upeh's Turtles

WWF-Malaysia is shocked at the recent announcement by Melaka’s Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam to develop Pulau Upeh, the primary nesting beach for the hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) with 20% of nestings for the whole of Peninsular Malaysia. 

WWF-Malaysia is shocked at the recent announcement by Melaka’s Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam to develop Pulau Upeh, the primary nesting beach for the hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) with 20% of nestings for the whole of Peninsular Malaysia. 

What is even more alarming is that these plans have surfaced in the wake of WWF-Malaysia’s meeting with the Chief Minister last month about the crucial importance of Pulau Upeh and other prime nesting beaches for the hawksbill turtles.

WWF-Malaysia had stressed at the meeting that legal protection of all prime nesting beaches (including the whole of Pulau Upeh) is needed and it would be in accordance with the State Government’s Action Plan towards achieving developed city status by 2010.

Further to legal protection, WWF-Malaysia also stressed that only low-impact turtle-based ecotourism is feasible on the island whilst providing the State with valuable tourism income, as well as to ensure the survival of the hawksbills. The CM’s plans for the tourism facilities on Pulau Upeh are thereby not a form of low-impact ecotourism.

WWF-Malaysia is of the opinion that any development on the island should include studies on the environmental sustainability, the feasibility and the impacts of the impending development on the turtles and their habitats. Proceeding with development without these considerations will have a catastrophic effect on the nesting habitat.

WWF-Malaysia has been monitoring the turtle population and the nesting beach of Pulau Upeh since 2006. The organisation wishes to highlight our concerns with the above announcement:

1. The plan to upgrade and build 200 units of chalets on the 1.8ha island

The island does not have 120 chalets existing, nor the capacity for more chalets to be built without compromising the nesting beach. Accompanying activities generated from this volume of tourists on the island will negatively impact the nesting behaviour and ecology of the turtles.

Furthermore, in order to accommodate the planned development, the State should not resort to reclaiming on or near the island. Any such reclamation will have devastating impacts on the turtles.  There is already extensive reclamation along the coastline of Klebang, opposite Pulau Upeh.

2. To turn Pulau Upeh into a centre for hawksbill conservation

The plan to turn Pulau Upeh into a centre for hawksbill conservation while being a positive idea, should not compromise the protection of the turtles nor their habitats. Currently, the nesting beaches in Melaka, including Pulau Upeh, are NOT legally protected. The viability of Pulau Upeh for hawksbill conservation is dependent on legal protection of the whole island. In addition, the viability of turtle based ecotourism hinges on turtles returning to Pulau Upeh to nest annually. Rantau Abang is a classic example of turtle based tourism gone wrong.

3. Development works to commence in August

In view of the fact that the works are commencing in a mere two weeks, it is unlikely that any long-term planning for the proper management of turtles and their habitats have been taken into consideration. WWF-Malaysia is of the strong opinion that such studies and planning must be carried out with extensive consultation with all stakeholders, scientific community as well as technical agencies.

WWF-Malaysia calls for a complete halt to the works due to commence in August until an extensive consultation with all stakeholders, the scientific community as well as technical agencies is undertaken. This must include studies and consequent plans pertaining to sustainable low-impact turtle-based ecotourism, proper guidelines, adequate resources and  a comprehensive management plan prepared by the State.

Last but not least WWF-Malaysia calls for complete transparency by the State Government in all its plans with regard to all forms of development on and near the island.


by Dato’ Dr Dionysius S.K. Sharma, Executive Director/CEO
 

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