Transnational Corporations and Environmental Damages

9 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2011

Date Written: August 12, 2010


Transnational Corporations are driven by the financial bottom-line at home which precedes deliberate ecological destruction in distant lands.

In 1984, a methyl iso-cyanate gas leak from a Union Carbide Plant in Bhopal, India, resulted in the death of 3,500 & an exposure of estimated 521,000 individuals to the gas resulting in chronic effects, including depression of immune response. From 1982 to 1994, Bukit Merah in Malaysia was exposed to radioactive tailings from the activities of the Asian Rare Earth Corporation — a joint venture owned in part by Mitsubishi. Although exposed residents were denied redress under Malaysian tort law , the publicity surrounding the case resulted in the closure of the installation.

The globalization of economic activity in general, and the growing role of transnational corporations (TNCs) in particular, have increasingly directed attention toward the environmental consequences of these developments. The causes and consequences of global environmental change cannot be addressed through the exercise of national jurisdiction alone. While the international community has made important advances in developing new global treaty regimes, their topical coverage is still patchy and the implementation of international law in national systems is generally poor.

Current international, environmental law does not provide an avenue of legal redress for victims of environmental destruction. International environmental treaties bind state parties, but do not place obligations directly upon companies. And finally, courts in developing countries are often ill-equipped to apply complex methods of environmental valuation in order to establish remediation awards. Environmental harm to individuals is not a cause of action under current international law; such harm must be connected to a substantive right and this requirement leads courts and commissions into an undefined area of law.

Keywords: Transnational, Environment, Bhopal Gas Tragedy, international environmental law

Suggested Citation

Thakur, Rustam Singh, Transnational Corporations and Environmental Damages (August 12, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Rustam Singh Thakur (Contact Author)

Hidayatullah National Law University ( email )

Civil Line, Beside Raj Bhawan
Near Raj Bhawan
Raipur, Chattisgarh 492001


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