A new story came up recently that sounds like the L’Aquila case, but the other way round. Dr. Roger Bilham from the University of Colorado, a well-known earthquake researcher, was denied entry to India earlier this year. He was on a flight to Bhutan and supposed to change planes in New Delhi when Indian officials sent him back to the plane he just arrived on. Officially, he was accused with having the wrong type of visa. Himself and many colleagues, however, are sure that he was deported because he stated that the seismic hazard in India is underestimated. In detail, he raised concerns about a possible M8.7 EQ in the Kashmir region. Read this great and enthusiastic article by Dave Petley on this topic. Secondly, Bilham published an article on the past and future seismic activity of the Jaitapur Region, where a new nuclear power plant is planned. Not surprisingly, Indian officials didn’t really like these news. His research led him to conclude that in both parts of India the seismic hazard could be much higher than officials admit.
If Bilham’s statements were the reasons for his deportation, we would see another scandal involving scientists providing seismic hazard estimation. The difference is: This time one wasn’t accused for not having warned, but for having warned. Soon after the L’Aquila trial many colleagues feared that this could become true.
ScienceMag also covers the case in this article.
Watch this video of Bilham presenting his results during a press conference organized by Greenpeace in January this year. (Greenpeace might not exactly be a neutral player in the NPP issue, but science doesn’t (shouldn’t) care about politics.)
Since many of Bilham’s colleagues think he’s been banned for his hazard statements and not for the visa issue, six scientists signed this letter of support to the Science Magazine (surprisingly, not to the government of India, as far as I know, but correct me if I am wrong):
I am very curious how this story will develop. If India did sent him back because of his science, this would be an anti-democratic, ridiculous decision with a negative outcome to science in India in general.
Thanks to Angela Landgraf for pointing me to this story.