Kathie Marchlewski, Midland Daily News, December 3, 2006
It was just after midnight, now 22 years ago, that a gas leak in Bhopal, India killed thousands and changed the lives of thousands more forever. There are still many suffering lingering health effects, and here in the U.S., Union Carbide and its now-parent company face ongoing blame and criticism for the event.
A new book, released in conjunction with the tragedy’s anniversary Dec. 3 and “The Black Box of Bhopal: A Closer Look at the World’s Deadliest Industrial Disaster,” challenges the public’s assumptions about the event and answers questions previously unanswered.
Author Dr. Themistocles D’Silva, a 1993 retiree of Union Carbide, was a member of the scientific team commissioned to investigate the cause of the deadly gas leak. Shortly after his retirement in 1993, he began collecting information for the book, published in September by Trafford Publishing.
“I wanted to place on record the real facts about the disaster and to destroy the perceptions and myths created from misinformation or lack of information,” D’Silva said.
While US-based Union Carbide, and its now-owner The Dow Chemical Co. have been primary targets for blame in the incident, D’Silva also analyzes the role of the Indian government, which was closely involved in the planning, construction of the plant in Bhopal. He points out that the Bhopal plant was constructed by Indian engineers with the help of Indian consultants, as mandated by the government.
“The terms of the agreement and the country’s laws precluded any involvement by the foreign collaborator in the operation of the plant or issues of quality control,” he said.
And while D’Silva is a Union Carbide retiree, the book is an independent effort and doesn’t make light of the tragic problem. He describes in detail the confusion, mass hysteria and panic of Bhopalis fleeing the gas cloud, and describes the details of deaths.
Sources for the book include D’Silva’s own research and interviews, as well as news reports, court and otherwise public documents. Union Carbide declined to provide documents except those which had already been made public.
But D’Silva dissects events up to and after the disaster, provides details of the plant and its operation and explores the investigations into the disaster’s cause.
He also criticizes the handling of investigations. According to D’Silva’s research, Union Carbide investigators also were not allowed to carry out an open investigation following the disaster.
“It was controlled by the government agencies,” he said. “The book exposes the flaws in the government’s scientific report, which resulted from their investigation.”
D’Silva also proposes theories, based on UC forensic studies, on how the gas leak occurred, specifically, how it is that the 120 to 240 gallons of water entered a chemical storage tank, causing the reaction which perpetuated the leak.
“This is unlike any other book,” D’Silva said. “It discloses new information supported with primary documents – correspondence between government agencies and the Indian company, which establishes the question of ownership and responsibility.”
D’Silva, is a recognized research scientist who holds over 65 patents and is also the author of several scientific publications.
For more information on the book, or to purchase it for $19.50, visit www.trafford.com/06-0167.