The royal couple arrived in New Delhi to launch their official visit on Wednesday and were met with dense smog which has caused a public health emergency. Despite the conditions, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall appeared determined to continue their planned commitments in this, the final leg of their Commonwealth tour.
Having travelled in from Malaysia, the royal couple’s plane was shrouded in a thick fog when it landed, but they emerged with bright smiles despite the pollution, which is nearly 30 times the ‘safe’ level recognised by the World Health Organisation. Members of the public were seen covering their mouths and wearing masks or scarves to shield themselves from the smog, but the Prince and Duchess made their way to the British Council to attend a UK/India Year of Culture celebration.
From there, they moved to the British High Commissioner’s residence to attend a garden party for the charity Elephant Family, which was founded by the Duchess of Cornwall’s late brother, Mark Shand. The event aimed to raise awareness of the plight of Asian elephants and the royal couple had the chance to admire a selection of painted elephant statues and to contribute to the decoration of one covered in colourful hearts.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall spent an hour in the garden with guests before continuing to diplomatic engagements with Prime Minister Modi.
The dangerous levels of PM 2.5 – microscopic particles said to be the most damaging to human health – led local schools to be closed with New Delhi’s deputy chief minister tweeting: “Due to the deteriorating air quality in Delhi, the health of children cannot be compromised. We have ordered the closure of all the schools in Delhi until Sunday.”
New Delhi is currently the world’s most polluted city, despite measures taken by authorities to address the crisis. This time of year is especially difficult as cooler ait in the lead-up to winter traps pollutants near the ground, preventing them from dispersing into the atmosphere.