The Punjab Pollution Control Broad on Wednesday challenged the World Health Organisation’s report on ambient air quality in the state that said Patiala was among the most polluted cities in the world, The Tribune reported. The board said the report, according to which 14 of the top 20 polluted cities are in India, was unscientific and did not have reasonable facts.

“Patiala was placed in this list on the basis of PM 2.5 data which was never monitored by the Punjab Pollution Control Broad or any other government agency in any of the cities of Punjab during the study period of the report from 2010 to 2016,” said KS Pannu, the pollution control agency’s chairperson.

PM, or particulate matter, is a fine mixture of solids and liquid droplets in the air, and PM 2.5 is a category of pollutants that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter. PM 2.5 pollutants are small enough to lodge themselves into human lungs.

The Centre set up 24 air-monitoring stations in rural and urban areas across the state under the national air quality monitoring programme in the late 1980s. However, the equipment used at these centres can record only PM 10 levels along with the presence of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, The Times of India reported. Pannu said that a pollution-monitoring station set up in Patiala on January 24 can measure PM 2.5 levels. The average readings of this station were found to be 48.4 micrograms per cubic metre, Pannu claimed, and not 101 micrograms per cubic metre as the WHO quoted in its report.

“I am surprised as it appears that United Nations agency has interpreted the PM 10 data as PM 2.5 without any scientific figures recorded in the state,” said the pollution control board chief. “The report has astonished every one, including the scientist community. The WHO has never consulted nor shared any information in this regard with the state pollution control board.”

Pannu claimed that the report had created panic among the residents of Patiala and other cities in the state. The board would challenge the report and take up the matter with the WHO, he added.