Giant African snails have been creeping out of sewers at Ridgewood gardens, Golconda, residents said on Thursday.
The residents, who have been killing hundreds of snails almost every night, say they want assistance from the authorities as the infestation is now unmanageable.
Resident Avril Jacob said, “The snails are on my plants, in the yard. I have my pets and I am worried.”
She added, “We want the Ministry of Agriculture or maybe the councillor to come. Who can we get to assist us? We don’t have the experience to deal with this.”
She said the Housing Development Corporation ( HDC) distributed letters in the community several months ago.
“When we go to them for help, they are saying they are not responsible,” she lamented, adding, “These are not normal snails. The slime from the Giant African snails can give us meningitis. We have children and already some of our pets have been affected by these snails.”
Kafi Dorset, another resident said they were doing as much as possible to eradicate the pests.
“As a community, we are trying to come out every night and see what we can do. We are spraying them every day and raking them up but we need help. We are short on manpower,” Dorset said.
She added, “We have seen the snails in the sewers. The sewer is a breeding ground for snails. Some are in the grass where the soil is moist but many are living in the open manholes. We are frightened because all the manholes are connected. It’s only a matter of time that it comes up in our homes.”
Dorset noted that residents have been planting crops to supplement their income.
“This is a health hazard and we want professional help to get rid of the snails because they are on our water tanks and the trees,” she added.
Marsha Mitchell, another resident said the snails have been in the community for a few months.
“We have uncovered manholes. It’s a lot of snails. There are lots of babies, tiny ones and some bigger than the palm of my hand. We cannot afford to get rid of this. It is expensive. We use bleach and salt to kill them and we burn them,” Mitchell said.
The snails which are regarded as the world’s most destructive land snails are carriers of the rat lungworm which causes meningitis in humans.
Guardian Media reached out to Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat who directed questions to chief technical officer Dr Simone Titus. However, she could not be reached for comment.
In response to an email sent by Guardian Media weeks ago, an agricultural officer with the Entomology Unit Research Division of the Ministry of Agriculture said field officers were no longer doing visits. The official advised farmers and residents to try to control the pests themselves.
“It should also be noted that there is no ‘one-time fix’ solution and requires continuous monitoring and adoption of the management practices. Unfortunately, the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries is unable to carry out baiting and/or collection of snails at this time,” the officer said.
The officer advised a list of strategies that can be used to control this pest. The snails, which were first spotted in Diego Martin in 2008, have moved southward, destroying fields of crops in Cumoto, Barrackpore. Farmers have been using metaldehyde and sodium chloride to control the pests as well as snail bait but the snails have continued to multiply.