The receding water level in Kalimantan’s Kapuas River during the dry season has caused a major problem for the local economy, preventing ships that distribute fuel and basic staples from setting sail.
State oil and gas company Pertamina has switched to land transportation, which is more expensive, to distribute fuel to the districts of Sintang and Kapuas Hulu in West Kalimantan, provincial sales representative, John Haidir said.
“The receding water is a major problem for us,” he said.
“We have to beef up the floating storage in Sanggau [district] and trucks from Pontianak,” the provincial capital.
Kalimantan is Indonesia’s largest island, and the Kapuas River, which stretches 1,143 kilometers, has been instrumental in the distribution of food and other goods.
Musliman, 30, who lives in Sintang, said the prices of rice and cooking oil had risen in recent weeks. The price of cooking oil has jumped to Rp 14,000 per kilogram ($1.50)from Rp 10,000, and rice is Rp 10,000 a kilogram compared to Rp 7,000 earlier.
The price of sugar has also increased, to Rp 14,000 per kilogram from Rp 10,000.
Pertamina has deployed 10 large tanks to distribute fuel to inland areas of West Kalimantan, John said, but the fuel price has also increased.
The price of subsidized fuel in those districts has risen to Rp 10,000 per liter from Rp 7,000, according to local residents. By contrast, low-octane subsidized fuel costs Rp 4,500 per liter in Java, the nation’s most densely populated island.
“This has been the worst year for us,” Musliman said.
The switch to land transportation has increased distribution costs for basic staples, according to Retno Pramudya, from the West Kalimantan branch of the Association of Forwarders and Expedition Companies (Gafeksi).
The cost to transport goods by water is Rp 200,000 per ton, he said, while the distribution cost with land transportation is Rp 230,000 a ton.
“There is a big difference in the cost,” he said. “This will last until the water [levels] on Kapuas return to normal.”
Receding waters during the dry season, which usually runs from May to October in Indonesia, often affects large rivers such as Kapuas and Mahakam in Kalimantan.
Water levels typically return to normal at the start of rainy reason, which is expected to run from November to May.
Milton Crosby, the district chief of Sintang, said the government would ensure local people could meet their needs.
“We will always try to provide the basic staple,” he said without elaborating.
Kalimantan is rich in natural resources such as coal, oil, natural gas and gold. It is home to sites operated by Bumi Resources, the country’s biggest coal miner, as well as rival Adaro Energy.
Indonesia produced 340 million tons of coal last year, with 80 percent coming from Kalimantan.
The island is home to 14 million people, or about 6 percent of Indonesia’s total population of 240 million.