Mr Thapan has a distinguished background in development over 35 years. He worked on numerous urban development, water supply and sanitation, and tourism projects in Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Thailand, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka during his two decades with the Asian Development Bank. In Cambodia, he helped the legendary Ek Sonn Chan turn around the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority from a war-torn wreck to one of Asia’s best utilities.
In 2000, Mr Thapan wrote the Water Policy of the Asian Development Bank. He also served as the first Chair of ADB’s Water Community of Practice. In 2004 he was a member of the Gurria Task Force on Financing Water Infrastructure. He is the only water professional in any multilateral development bank to head a regional department – he was Director General of ADB’s Southeast Asia Department from 2006-2009. In 2010, as the President’s first (and only) Special Senior Advisor for Infrastructure and Water, he designed and delivered ADB’s first Water: Crisis and Choices conference that stimulated solution-based thinking.
Mr Thapan is a universally recognized, leading thinker, writer, and speaker on global Water issues. He designed and led the implementation of the Water Operators Partnership program in Asia – a global first that supports utility operational performance enhancement through peer-to-peer learning (now WaterLinks). As Chair of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Water Security from 2009-2011, he designed the Davos Initiative and leveraged the council’s effort to propagate the Water-Energy-Food Nexus as a key determinant of development planning. He has served on the advisory boards of Suez Environnement, Xylem, Aquaya, and the World Toilet Organization. He is a member of the Scientific Committee of the Efficient Water Management Specialist Group in the International Water Association. Currently, he also serves as Chair of UNESCO’s Advisory Board for its International Hydrological Programme. WaterLinks has him as its first Chairman.