RIO DE JANEIRO Brazil's state-run development bank will set up an international donations fund for the preservation of the Amazon, its chief said on Wednesday, as the country fends off criticism for not doing enough to preserve its rain forest.
Luciano Coutinho, president of the National Economic and Social Development Bank (BNDES), told reporters the first contribution was already being negotiated with the Norwegian government and could be up to $200 million.
"This fund is being structured because Brazil wants to receive hefty donations," he said, adding the Norwegian contribution could be made this year and be repeated over a total of five years.
The BNDES, which has the Environment Ministry's mandate to manage the fund, already has credit lines to help companies that respect the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions and protect the environment.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has dismissed foreign concern over Amazon preservation on several occasions in the past few days after the resignation of Environment Minister Marina Silva.
He said countries that had already chopped down their forests and were among the worst polluters should not be giving Brazil environmental advice or talking about the Amazon as if it belonged to the world.
Environmental groups expressed grave concern this month when Silva, who was seen as a guardian of the Amazon, stepped down citing inability to carry out her agenda.
She was replaced by Carlos Minc, a founder of the Green Party in Brazil, who is nevertheless viewed with suspicion by some conservationists because he presided over a speeding up of environmental licenses in his most recent job as Rio de Janeiro's state environment chief.
Silva had been increasingly isolated in her opposition to big infrastructure projects such as planned hydroelectric plants in the Amazon and had repeatedly clashed with big agricultural interests blamed for destroying the forest.
Lula says he is against unfettered development but that the Amazon should not be turned into an off-limits reserve either.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Gaier; writing by Andrei Khalip; editing by Stuart Grudgings and John O'Callaghan)