The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has trashed as “dubious” the World Health Organisation (WHO) report showing four Punjab cities—Ludhiana, Khanna, Amritsar and Mandi Gobindgarh—among the world’s 25 most-polluted cities in terms of fine particulate matter-2.5 (PM2.5; see box) level in the air.
“It’s a false report and we strongly object to it. We have written to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to challenge the WHO report. No one can show a state in bad light on the basis of unsubstantiated data,” said PPCB chairman Manpreet Singh Chhatwal.
Chhatwal said the WHO report was astonishing as no agency, government of otherwise, in Punjab measured the particulate matter-2.5 as of now. “It’s surprising from where did WHO get this data and which agency validated it. It is a matter of concern for the PPCB and the state government that unsubstantiated data has been released, leaving people scared. We have written to the CPCB to call a meeting to discuss the issue,” he said.
He said PPCB keeps tabs on air quality of 11 cities, including the above-mentioned four, under the National Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP) sponsored by the CPCB, under which it collects data of PM10 (oxides of sulphur and nitrogen) only and not of PM2.5.
“There is no machine in Punjab to collect date of PM2.5, also called ‘fine particles’. So, from where did the WHO collect data to place Punjab cities among the most-polluted?” he said.
He said the CPCB has sanctioned Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring Stations (CAAQMS) at Mandi Gobindgarh, Ludhiana and Amritsar to measure the real-time air quality, including PM2.5. The stations have already been set up at Mandi Gobindgarh and Amritsar and installation work is on at Ludhiana. The air quality data (including of PM2.5) of these three cities will be available from June 30 onwards.
‘Permanent facility must for collecting average data’
When pointed out that is it possible that WHO officials could have come with the machine to collect the PM2.5 data, Chhatwal said, “We can’t collect air pollution data on some days and term it as average of that particular area. We have to monitor it daily throughout the year to come out with the average figure. Pollution figures vary drastically as they are at peak after wheat, paddy harvesting and Diwali. At times in a year, air pollution figures touch the clean mark.”