Asia’s water systems are struggling in the face of climate change and the increasing water demands of their growing economies. In such a scenario, a significant water availability gap seems imminent. In this audio interview, part of a Stanford Center for Social Innovation series on water around the world, the Asian Development Bank’s Arjun Thapan talks with Stanford MBA student Ashish Jhina about the need for countries to look at water as an economic good, in addition to being a public good. He explains how public private partnerships could help bring about increased operational efficiency and higher quality service, as well as more comprehensive coverage of the urban poor by water and sanitation systems. He points to numerous success stories in India, China and the Philippines as evidence of the viability of the PPP model and its success in more adequately meeting the demands of its customers.

Arjun Thapan joined ADB in 1991 and since January 2010 is the Special Senior Advisor to the President of ADB for Infrastructure and Water. A leading thinker on water issues in Asia and a strong advocate of ADB’s water agenda, Mr. Thapan has led the initiative to double ADB’s investments in water and sanitation to over $2 billion annually. He is chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Water Security, and he chaired the ADB and Partners Conference – Water: Crisis and Choices held in Manila on October 11-15, 2010.

Prior to his current position, Mr. Thapan was Director General and Deputy Director General of Southeast Asia Department. He also served as chair of ADB’s Water Committee until August 2008, designing and leading the implementation of the Water Operators Partnership program in Asia – a global first. His work on water policy issues, especially on “Water for ALL” for Asia’s developing countries, has been universally recognized; he is currently guiding the design of a water resources operational framework to sit within a Green Growth paradigm in ADB.

Before joining ADB, Mr. Thapan worked with the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. He is a qualified public accountant and auditor with 18 years experience in a variety of public audit functions in India. He also worked for 5 years in the External Finance Division of the Department of Economic Affairs in the Indian Ministry of Finance, and was Director (Finance) in the Ministry of Steel and Mines, New Delhi, before joining ADB. Mr. Thapan has a Masters in History from the University of Delhi and pursued Management Accounting at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.