SEOUL, Mar. 29 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korean police buses are being criticized for contributing to the air pollution that frequently blankets Seoul and other cities across the country.
These buses, which are often dispatched to protests around Seoul and are usually left idling all day long, are accused of emitting harmful air pollutants, as the latest data show all of them are run on diesel.
While all police buses in Seoul are powered by diesel engines, a third are aging diesel buses released before March 2005, according to data submitted to lawmaker Yoo Min-bong from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.
In fact, all of the 850 police buses across the country are powered by diesel engines, which have been identified as major contributors to the country’s growing air pollution issues.
Though all the city buses in Seoul now run on compressed natural gas (CNG), thanks to the government’s effort to make public transport do away with diesel in 2016, police buses were left out of the environmental initiative.
Compared to CNG buses, diesel buses are estimated to generate three times more nitrogen oxide, one of the most common air pollutants. Carbon monoxide emissions are around 30 times higher among diesel buses, according to researchers at the Korea Environment Institute.
The common practice of leaving engines running when police buses are dispatched at protests – often held in the heart of Seoul – has also raised a few eyebrows.
Kim, a 34-year-old office worker in Gwanghwamun, says he has to encounter noxious exhaust gases coming from police buses dispatched near the U.S. embassy. Coupled with fine dust, passing by a police bus can make it hard to even breathe sometimes.
Despite growing calls to adopt more environment-friendly fuels, police cite a number of issues including limited financial resources, a lack of space in CNG vehicles due to the presence of CNG fuel cells, and dearth of CNG charging stations.
CNG buses are roughly 20 percent more expensive than their diesel counterparts, which means it would cost a total of 36 billion won to replace all the police buses in Seoul alone.
“Though the practice of blocking protests with police buses has been stopped, CNG buses, which can explode when turned over or damaged, carry a higher risk,” an official at the Korean National Police Agency said.